Competing for Lunch Money: The Food Industry’s Presence in American Public Schools

Kelsey Peterson

Abstract


In recent years, the menus of public school cafeterias have changed. American children are choosing to eat name brand, processed foods from vending machines and fast food restaurants instead of federally provided and nutritionally balanced school lunches. The multi-billion dollar marketing strategies of major food companies undeniable fuel this phenomenon. In this article, we examine the significant impact of the food industry’s presence in American public schools. On one hand, the sale of “competitive” foods in schools proves to be a successful business tactic for food advertisers and schools alike. However, an increase of processed foods consumed in schools can be linked to the modern dilemma of childhood obesity and the declining health of American youth. Some argue that we are witnessing a healthy, market economy at work and children’s eating habits are the responsibility of family and friends at home. Others more strongly believe that stricter government regulation and more consistent health education may be necessary to correct this problem.

Keywords


public schools, food industry in schools, childhood obesity, health education

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