The White House means well. It's always nice to come to that conclusion. Tuesday's news that ads pushing junk food and soda would be banned from all schools participating in the government-subsidized free lunch program might mean that students around our country may no longer, as of next year, be exposed to heinous marketing practices within their schools' hallowed halls.
It's a good public relations move. We applaud it. However, there is no way this new regulation will do anything to limit the extent to which young people, both inside and outside of schools, embrace cheap, nutritionally worthless food. Trust a teacher on this one. We know our kids.
Students value spending less money and bombarding their guts with salt and trans fats more than they value the fruits of this purported re-education by subtraction. They know that McDonald's is bad for them. They are aware that Doritos are not brain food. Yet their taste buds have, through years of habit, been re-wired to crave what soda, glistening pizza slices and drippy burgers provide. Unraveling that requires a holistic solution. Removing signage won't contribute much to that.
See also: New Rules Limit Junk Food Marketing at Schools
Students bring fast food to school, whether school rules permit doing so or not. Their parents, particularly the less affluent ones, view it as an easy way to handle dinner for teens with endless appetites. Bags of leftover Taco Bell are not uncommon pre-school snacks.
The school doesn't have to market fast food in any way when students are proactive about marketing it themselves and are reinforced externally outside the school domain – by families, friends, and the relentless assault of television commercials aggressively targeting their demographic. Banning any trace of junk food doesn't make kids eat it less. It makes them work harder to obtain it.
Telling students that junk food is bad for their bodies won't deter them. Students like to smoke weed and drink vodka in the bathroom. They don't care what is bad for them at this point in their lives. They are still in invincibility mode. We've counseled a star football player on his Carl's Jr. addiction, suggesting that a daily pre-practice diet of fries might not enhance his on-field performance.
“They make me happy though,” he said.