Fast food is much to digest
WHAT should be done about student access to fast food during the day?
A high school canteen was closed because it was not seen as financially viable. That resulted in children accessing fast-food outlets during lunchtime.
The situation was inevitable with no alternative food available for those who opt to buy their lunch.
There are numerous health, behavioural and education benefits of a wellrun school canteen. Therefore, such canteens should not be viewed solely as a business proposition.
Over-consumption of fast food has implications for long-term health outcomes such as heart disease, overweight and obesity.
Fast foods are constantly promoted and advertised to young people, and are easily accessible 24/7 and before, during and after school. The power of promotion and product placement cannot be underestimated.
The problem is not one of occasional use of such fast-food restaurants but the fact that for many young people it is a daily occurrence.
Young people see both fast food and the attendance at an outlet as part of the process of growing up and attaining freedom.
So spending your money on food that your parents, teachers and others in authority see as unhealthy can be viewed as an act of rebellion. Fast-food restaurants are a space where young people can “hang out” free from parental and other influences.
There is an assumption among young people that prohibited food is better tasting, an assumption not borne out in blind taste tests.
When with their peers, choosing healthy food may be seen as making the “wrong” social food choice, exposing them to ridicule and ostracism.
Clearly, public health regulation is needed to address marketing of fast food, location of and new openings of fast-food restaurants to create “no fry” zones around schools.
At the same time, schools should ensure their canteens offer food that is affordable, healthy and attractive to students.