Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Junk food in high schools

This was a timely article (for me) because the Site Council at Roosevelt High School was just discussing this issue with our student leaders. They are all very unhappy with the loss of money which, of course, is more keenly felt at schools that have fewer resources.


This was one of the first pieces of work that Brita took on as a new director and it was very important to her as she started and headed a nutrition in schools group that received national attention. However, as the article reveals, there was no real idea of what to do when the revenues dropped (as they surely knew they would). It wasn't fair of the Board to not work with the schools on what to do.

I found a couple of Brita's remarks interesting. One, that she says that schools, student bodies, will need to do some soul-searching on what projects they fund. Well, when your funding for things like a schoolwide spirit day or the yearbook gets cut by two-thirds, it becomes more than soul searching. Roosevelt is selling smoothies and popcorn and it's not making a lot of money. Two, she makes a good point: it's the kids and the staff spending the money on junk food. If they wanted to support school spirit, they would buy - at least some of the time - the food at school.

This is a very difficult subject. We do have a duty as adults to provide for kids good food choices. However, as a parent of teenagers and as a parent who has hung out around a couple of high schools, I can't believe the junk these kids want to eat for lunch. And there is no mechanism to make them stop. Seriously. They have their own money, they have the ability to leave campus and they do. It's sad because it just hurts them to get a sugar high (and then they crash later on in class and it's not enough for a growing body. But you can tell them that, even the athletes, and they will laugh at you.


Anonymous said...

I believe it is right to show the schools do not support the junk food by not selling it. I also believe it is not going to stop the students from going off campus to get the junk food and that closing the campus is overkill (and would hurt local businesses tremendously).

I believe the thing to do here is for the School district to support the schools in alternative fundraising opportunities.

I agree it's a touch subject with schools in communities with less resources. Brita says the money came from the student's pockets initially, but it is pretty obvious that money is being spent off campus and not being saved to help support extracurricular school activities - those schools definitely need more support to come up with ways to raise more money and the school district owes them that support.

I don't like her comments about prioritizing and cutting some of the fun activities - school is about academics, but the fun activities help keep kids tied to the school community and keep them out of trouble outside of school. When I read what was cut at Ballard was it...those sound like things that shouldn't be cut.

Anonymous said...

Im surprised Roosevelt is allowed to sell smoothies and popcorn-Garfield wasn't allowed to sell bagels because it competed with the cafeteria.
When I hear the Ballard pta president voice concern over critical supports for students being cut- For instance school sports, which should be supported by district are being cut drastically at Franklin.
Before the bail out- they had no money to run teams.
I am not sure of money trail- are schools required to find extra money to support sports teams or are those things supported equally by district at all schools?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't know what the line of delination is between what the district provides and what each school is responsible for in terms of athletics. I'll ask the Roosevelt principal at our next Site Council meeting.

What thing that did come out at the last Site Council meeting was in line with this discussion. Namely, what do district policies mean? Charlie has said repeatedly that most Board policies mean nothing because they have zero enforcement power.

The example at Roosevelt is that the student leaders at the meeting were giving reports on each class. The sophomores had barely broken even on their dance because not many kids attended. What they heard was that many kids are feeling too much heat over freak dancing and alcohol. The district has a policy on freak dancing (and you'll find parents all over the place on this dancing - I think it's disgusting but oh well - but some parents complained to the principal and now the district's policy is strictly enforced at Roosevelt). However, kids being kids, talk to students at other schools and found out that at, say, Ballard, a blind eye is turned to it. Naturally, that looks unfair to the kids at Roosevelt.

(The issue of alcohol was that students felt that they were being watched for signs of drunkness and some were opting for drugs - to avoid the breath problem. The student leader was saying that kids will be kids and that Ectasy is worse than drinking. We had to gently tell him that he may have a point but that we, as adults, would never condone or let up on watching kids for either type of usage. It was funny that he thought we might be sympathetic to this issue.)

Should the district leave it to each high school to enforce the dance policy? Can we say to our students, "This is how our community is choosing to enforce this policy, sorry." Should parents take a vote because the students claim most parents wouldn't care?

Charlie Mas said...

I don't see any down side to directly thumbing your nose at the District policy - any District policy. What could the down side be? Would it be a black mark on the Principal's performance evaluation? Who is the junk food cop? I don't think there is one.

So anonymous #2, go ahead and sell bagels. What are they gonna do? No one has the authority to stop you. If they tell you it's against the policy, just nod in agreement and keep going.

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