Report: Junk Food In Schools Accounts For 400 Billion Calories Every Year

junk food in schools

No military service for you, young donut-eyed child

If you side with “hungry” high schoolers and uninformed lawmakers who care about business more than the health of our kids, you may think that new regulations on school lunches, which are designed to to cut down on junk food, are just too nanny state-ish. But it’s not just Michelle Obama who’s worried about the crap our nation’s students are eating. Retired military officers–yes, veterans–also believe passionately in the issue. They’ve released yet another report, called “Still Too Fat To Fight,” which states that junk food is still leaving America’s students too unhealthy to have a strong military presence.

Mission: Readiness is a nonprofit, non-partisan group of retired military officers who are concerned that the food we’re feeding to children is rendering them too sickly and too overweight to be assemble competitive, competent armed forces. “Still To Fat To Fight” is a follow-up to the 2010 report, “Too Fat To Fight,” which illustrates the fact that, in the last two years, things have not gotten better.

Here are just some of the findings in the report:

  • 1 in 4 American students is just too overweight to join the military
  • The Department of Defense spends over $1 billion of taxpayer money on “weight-related diseases” annually.
  • American students consume almost 400 billion calories from junk food sold in their schools alone each year. That doesn’t account for snacking at home, or food purchased at convenience stores.
  • Junk food calories served in schools to students equal more than the weight of an aircraft carrier.

Even if you don’t care for about the military in the slightest, those figures are pretty jaw-dropping. And, unlike many other factors regarding obesity and obesity-related disease, they have one really, really simple solution: Get junk food out of schools.

Access to fresh, healthy food is one of the biggest and most difficult-to-solve problems about America’s obesity epidemic–but changing neighborhoods and habits is a lot harder than changing school lunches, which are, for the most part, controlled by government bodies. Much of the junk food sold in schools is also a matter of closing budget gaps. Many schools turn to selling candy, cookies, soda, and chips as a way to drum up revenue–which means that ensuring adequate funding for schools can be as important as implementing physical activity programs and healthy school lunch plans.

And yet, the USDA and FDA remain firmly under the thumb of lobbying groups and big corporations, which care more about their bottom lines than the health of our nation’s children. That’s what keeps fried potatoes on the menu as a “vegetable,” and why school snack shacks fork over billions of calories of candy and Coca-Cola every year.

As this report points out, getting junk out of a school is a common sense, necessary step toward not just a healthier armed forces, but a healthier workforce and a healthier nation. Children just don’t need to be drinking soda and eating candy at school. It may be good for business, but it’s just not good for their health.

Image: Alena Ozerova via Shutterstock

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    • cheryl

      schools don’t sell junk food. haven’t for years. kids bring donuts, hot cheetos and monster drinks/sodas (liter sized bottles!) to school! Schools are not making kids fat. It’s what they eat and are bringing from home that is. Let’s do away with school lunches/breakfasts all together and make parents responsible for feeding their kids!