School food contract limits health options

The crackle of the wrapper sounds deafening in the hush of the early morning. School is beginning and the nauseating, repulsive smell of fake strawberries is just too much. Are Pop-Tarts really necessary at such an early hour? All you want is tea ? an idea is born. Why not have a fund-raiser for your club and sell tea on Friday mornings?

“Great idea!” You think. Nope. Not possible. The contract between the school and its Food and Nutrition service supplier, Energy Zone, decrees that “nothing can be sold in competition with the school food service program.” This clause is meant to promote the health of the students by limiting their options. However, this restriction not only is hypocritical of a governmental institution, it is also negatively affecting the students and protecting an unhealthy and unworthy service.

The United States? economy is built upon the principles of capitalism, characterized by free market competition. Although the government regulates it with legislation to ensure the safety of the consumer, it always maintains the ability of the consumer to choose for him or herself.

Therefore, it is hypocritical of the school board, a subset of government-run public education, to ban all competition with the school?s food service provider. If we students look at the overall effects of limits on competition, we see that quality decreases.

If schools are the place where we are to learn good decision-making skills, we must be given the occasion to practice. By limiting our choices to either processed, unhealthy but tasty foods (Pop-Tarts) or bland, more healthy ones, the school is not providing a good option to us as consumers.

In Finland, all students eat the school lunch, which is healthy and generally liked by the students; only three percent of schoolchildren aged 13 to 17 are obese compared to 18.1 percent of children in the US from ages 12 to 19. For those students who receive free or reduced fare lunches (about 17 percent of Marshall?s student body), the school meals may be their only choice.

Energy Zone products are unworthy of protection. With the pretext of keeping unhealthy options away from students, it allows its food to be of low quality. Many of the food items that the cafeteria sells are prepackaged, processed foods.

Student groups should have the right to sell alternative options as fund-raising opportunities during the school day. The cafeteria needs a little healthy competition.