Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Banning Chocolate from Schools

Economist Tim Harford discusses how free markets are suppressed in some cases. The main issue he discusses is how some schools are banning candy in vending machines. The questions to go along with the article are below:

In a few very publicized cases, the government is trying to get directly involved in maintaining (or improving) the health of America's children by putting weight on report cards, removing vending machines from schools, etc. Is it important to do such things, or is it a lost cause? If so, why, and what causes the problem in the first place (like marketing of junk food directly to children)? And is there something, ultimately, that could reduce the incentive for children (and people in general) to eat junk food, or is the approach that these schools are taking (by removing the temptation entirely) the best (or is it an impossible problem to fix at all)?

(Proposed by Nicole)


Anonymous said...

I think it is good that schools are trying to take control of the evergrowing weight problem in America. The only reason the problem occured in the first place was because schools were not offering a sufficient "hot lunch" for the kids to eat. Instead of taking out all candy from vending machines, I think it would be a better idea to just add in healthy food along with the candy and chips. This way kids have a choice when it comes to their own health. Many school cafeterias lack healthy lunch choices. Instead of putting restrictions on candy, why not give a fruit or vegetable option? Make the meal they serve healthy but enjoyable for the students. This way it is easy to avoid the problem of other markets trying to sell their own food to the kids. If the kids don't like the more healthy but yummy food, there is no way to stop them from buying food from other sources.

Anonymous said...

WHAT? Remove chocolate from school vending machines? Seems to be a crazy idea to me since I am an avid chocolate eater, but considering the health and weight problems in America shows that this idea has some potentially good effects. I agree with Hope when she says that it might be a better idea to add healthier foods into vending machines along side the chocolate, instead of taking away the vending machines all together. It seems as though making kids buy the right option, like an apple, would be impossible. Maybe so, but it is better to give options instead of none at all. Hope also said that keeping chocolate and adding new options avoids the problem of other markets selling their food to the kids. Again, a valid point. Maybe weight is becoming an issue in America, but the opportunity cost of removing chocolate from school vending machines could cause students to be less energetic. I find that chocolate can help me stay awake and be more energetic. Anyway, removing chocolate all togther is not as appropriate as adding more healthy options next to the chocolate.

Anonymous said...

As our economics book says, and as our history teachers have taught us the U.S. is not a totally free market economy. The government does intervene sometimes. People in the U.S. know that they are living free here, but the government will interject in their lives some times. The idea of putting kids’ weights on their report cards is absurd and crazy. The effects of this could lead to a rise in eating disorders and even suicide rates. The idea of using the government to ban vending machines from schools is interesting and communistic like. Even though I am a person, who is disgusted when I see someone eating a 3,000 calorie honey bun from the vending machine, I do not believe it is the government’s right to ban the machines because if they ban the machines than the effect will hurt the junk food industry which will in turn hurt people financially who work in the industry. Now the question is is it more important to save peoples’ jobs and allow the youth of today to become severely unhealthy? The answer is no. Then is it right for the youth of today to be fairly healthy at the expense of thousands of people being unemployed? The answer here too is no. The government has no right to ban an industry that they allowed to grow in producing job opportunities. For example the way the cigarette industry is being handled should be the same way the vending machine issue in schools should be handled. The government knows cigarettes are bad for people so they put the surgeon’s general warning on the boxes and produce a lot of ad campaigns to try to educate people on the hazards. The same thing should be done for the vending machine problem in schools. The government could produce some type of more noticeable label besides the chart on the back of foods to educate buyers on the risks they are taking by eating these foods. The government could also create ad campaigns and give money to school health programs to work harder on educating the students about healthy lifestyles. I do not even think the schools themselves should try to take away all vending machines. Maybe change the foods and drinks inside, but not totally take them away because the fact is that in life people have to make decisions that affect them. A good way to practice for those decisions is to have the temptation of vending machines at schools, but at the same time to educate the students in using the machines in moderation. This could help teach the students how to make decisions in life, even when temptation is near.


Anonymous said...

I hate to dispute Hope and Morgan, but I believe that the introduction of health food into vending machines to be sold alongside chocolate would merely cause chocolate and other candy items to sell out faster. Most of the younger kids that I know would eat chocolate and candy for all three meals of the day if it were possible. So, if we really wanted to lower child obesity, introducing health food at schools when placed alongside chocolate and other candy products would be a waste of money by the school. I believe that the true problem lies in the fact that junk food nowadays is marketed directly at children, and some candy is even named after favorite cartoon characters. Also, the idea of adding weight to report cards is completely ridiculous. The only effect i could see that having would be an increase in eating disorders among teenage girls. As far as reducing incentives for children to eat junk food...that seems to be quite impossible, thus, if it is decided that fighting child obesity is worth ridding schools and lunchrooms of vending machines and junk food, then I see there to be no other way.

Hagar the Horrible said...

A couple of comments on your comments:

"It seems as though making kids buy the right option, like an apple, would be impossible."

How about if instead of forbidding chocolate it was just more expensive while healthier food options like fruit were priced more cheaply. Do you think that would decrease the weight problem?

"the opportunity cost of removing chocolate from school vending machines could cause students to be less energetic. I find that chocolate can help me stay awake and be more energetic."

So does caffeine but they don't serve you coffee in school either. At least I hope they don't.

Seth, you proposed handling the junkfood industry similar to the cigarette industry and put warning labels on junk food. But banning vending machines would be handling it the same way. After all, cigarette vending machines aren't allowed in schools either.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be a great start to improve the health of children by removing vending machines from schools. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. That's basically the idea of putting health foods in vending machines. Putting weight on report cards seems like a bit much, but there are other methods of controlling the eating habits of children: improve school lunches. Get rid of fries and chicken fingers and change that with baked potato wedges and baked chicken. Also, parents need to be informed on the health risks of overweight children. Get the schools to send home healthy, low-cost recipes. Basically, leaving chocolate, candy, and chips in schools will only promote unhealthy eating habits and further increase the average weight of Americans (which has increased by 10lbs over the past 10 years according to the airline industry). The mixed economic system allows both positive and negative governmental influence on markets and I think in this case its power should be used. Bring a child up in an environment that is filled with healthy foods and he will develop a love for it just as if he were to grow up in a junk food environment. It is all based on conditioning.