US schools in war on junk food
Based on an article in The Daily Telegraph,
These moves, however, have set the scene for conflict with the giant companies whose profits depend on the national appetite for fast food.
They argue that it is lack of exercise rather than a diet of cheeseburgers and sodas which is to blame for the three-fold increase in child obesity in the past 30 years. The fast-food companies dwarf pro-nutrition groups in terms of resources and have huge clout on Capitol Hill, but they are also very sensitive to their public image. That is the real way change is being brought about.
A number of polemical popular books have addressed the social and nutritional implications of the way giant food conglomerates market junk food. It is the marketing of big-brand junk foods to school-age children which, for most nutritionists, remains the most powerful single factor affecting the country's future health. PepsiCo, for example, has stated explicitly that its strategy is to expand soft drink consumption among children aged .
Sponsorship deals with food companies are now worth an estimated $750 million (£536 million) annually to American schools. The money often allows them to buy much-needed sporting and computer facilities but comes with strings attached. Fast food company say they are merely making their products available more widely. "Pouring rights" contracts with soft-drink makers specify numbers and placements of vending machines in schools, often tying sponsorship levels to sales quotas.
Fast food companies,
meanwhile, operate concessions in an increasing number
of school cafeterias. Elementary schools hold themed days for Pizza Hut
and McDonalds; Taco Bell products
are sold in 4,500 schools. Academic independence, say many nutritionists, is under threat. In March 1998, a high
school student in
Corporate sponsorship also extends to teaching materials such
as text books. A 1998 survey by the Consumers'
and public health campaigners say the
incursion of junk food into
But those on both sides of the debate seem to agree on one thing: the fight against Big Food in