There has been a general concern in US government and the public about the high number of children who are becoming obese. In this paper, effects of junk food in school children, and the easy accessibility to junk food as a leading cause of an increase in the number of obese children will be discussed. An increase of the number of overweight children has led to calls for the food and drug administration department to ban junk food from public schools. The ban is aimed at reducing the worrying trends of overweight children.
Junk food refers to types of food with caloric content that if continually consumed results into high caloric imbalance in the body. The problem of overweight in children in the US is mainly as a result of poor dietary habits of children as well as failure by guardians on their role to responsibly bring up children. According to (Pagano and Murphy, 2002. 12-45), over half of the children in the US are feeding on junk food. Studies further add that, over a half of children end up taking snacks such as French fries in between meals.
These foods are high on calories and fat. According to the center for disease control, over 70 percent of children do not take fruit consumption seriously and they think it is not very necessary, the report further notes that, children are not fond of participating in physical exercise offered through school programs. It is clear that, children may be observing poor diets due to ignorance hence the need for health education. With the above trends it is not surprising that overweight is becoming a major health concern.
The problem of increase in snack consumption among children is compounded by ease of access and affordability of these foods and has resulted in high consumption of fats. Vending machines have been found to be a leading cause of poor eating habits amongst children. In the US, most public schools allow the vendors to sell junk food around or in the schools. This is something that is causing rapid intake of fats by children who are usually targeted by the vendors.
The above are leading causes of obesity in children especially in schools. The fact that not so many children can make informed choices on diets has made the availability of cheap junk food a cause for worry and there is a need for more studies on this area in order to understand the problem as well as to offer solution. What started as a great idea and a good public relation effort between businesses and school communities threatens to get out of hand if measures are not taken to regulate vending of beverages around schools.
This can only be controlled by the food and drug administration department banning the selling of junk food in the schools. Although this move may not go down well with the vendors’ research has shown that the vending of sodas and candy is a contributory factor to obesity problem in school going children. Vending in it self is not the problem, what is the problem is when the vendors sell any thing to unsuspecting children putting their healthy at risk.
Although the role of guardians and especially parents is brought into spotlight, whenever the subject of overweight children arises, situations beyond the reach of guardians such as the action of children in regard to eating especially while at school should be directed to school administration (Meyers, Sampson, Weitzman, Rogers, and Kayne, 1989, 1234-1239). There is a need for clear regulatory policies in spite of the big money involved so as to save children the agony of obesity.
The opposition to sodas stems from the fact that there is evidence of excess calories present in such foods, which in turn lead to overweight when they replace nutritious foods such as fruits. Although obesity in children is largely associated with high intake of calories, family lifestyle, less physical activity, as well as other environmental factors such as what the child is exposed to in terms of food, peer pressure also plays a crucial role and contributes to obesity in children. The majority of children take to eating junk foods due to the fact that it is what majority of their peers take.
Guardians can assist children overcome negative peer pressure by advising them on strategies to deal with the challenge. Nutritional problems arising from peer pressure may pose challenges because food is one thing most children like and therefore are likely to follow their instincts. As early as 1980s it was estimated that one child out of every five, in America was overweight (Marx, Wooley and Northrop 1998. 56-100). The trend has been moving upward at an alarming rate and there is an urgent need for preventive measures. The population of overweight children since the 1980’s has been increasing sharply.
This situation results in higher risks among children of heart attacks as well as high likelihood of high blood pressure. This situation can pose serious challenges for children who may fail to understand the predicament and suffer from low self-esteem as well as poor academic performance. According to (National Association of State Boards of Education, (2000. 70-132), 13% of all children aged 6 to 11 years in the United States were overweight in a survey carried out in 1999. Experts agree that that the situation has worsened in the recent years.
The implications for these are far reaching as overweight children are at a higher risk of heart disease, (Marx, Wooley, & Northrop (1998). A study carried out by William, (1998. 3-54) found out that overweight children are more likely to suffer from heart diseases than their counterparts who are not overweight. Other risks associated with overweight in children include; diabetes, a high likelihood of becoming overweight in adulthood, high blood pressure as well as cancer, these children are at a high risk of social discrimination.
Overweight in children results to poor self-esteem and depression something which is very likely to cause poor academic performance. Poor eating habits, is hard to control in due to some cultures that may interpret overweight to mean contentment. In the US, overweight or healthy weight is measured using Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated from the height and weight of the individual (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll, and Johnson, 2002. 1728-1732).
Other than banning Junk food, other recommendations suggested for dealing with the problem include, appreciation of the children in their overweight conditions so as to encourage positive behavior, good role modeling on the part of guardians, introducing programs in schools aimed at curbing the problem, enhanced physical family activities to tackle the problem at the family level and proper dietary habits. The above measures are likely to result to benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and blood sugar, as well as better cholesterol levels and high esteem. Conclusion
The overweight problem in US is in simple terms, a disaster waiting to happen. If junk food is not banned in schools, the rate of overweight children will lead to a more strained public health, social problems, as well as economical implications because obesity is a condition which is expensive to treat. This is a clear a pointer to the need for controlling of what children eat by holding the guardians responsible for the health of their children. The role of schools, the government, the health system, and guardians as well as non-governmental is highly needed to revert the saddening current trends.
Page Marx, A. , Wooley, S. , and Northrop. Health Is Academic: A Guide to Coordinated School Health Programs. New York: Teachers College Press. 1998. 56-100. Meyers, Sampson, Weitzman, Rogers, and Kayne. School Breakfast Program and School Performance. American Journal of Diseases of Childhood 143, no. 10. , (1989, 1234-1239). National Association of State Boards of Education. Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn, Part 1: Physical Activity, Healthy Eating, and Tobacco-Use Prevention. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of Education. (2000. 70-132)