Junk Food at School

In this lesson, you will read about junk food and vending machines in the US. We will discuss whether or not it's a school's responsibility to promote healthy eating.

Pre-Reading Questions

  1. What is “junk food”? Give some examples of junk food?
  2. Do you eat a lot of junk food?
  3. Do you think that children nowadays eat too much junk food?
  4. What is a vending machine? Are there vending machines in public schools in your city? If so, what kind of products do they sell?
  5. How do schools in your area pay for things such as sports equipment, musical instruments, computer equipment, field trips, etc.?

Vocabulary Preview

  • snack: a light meal
  • advertising campaign: series of activities for selling something
  • encourage: give hope or confidence; support
  • restrict: limit
  • ignore: not pay attention to
  • obese: very fat
  • decay: get in bad condition
  • budget: a plan of income and spending
  • funded: paid for
  • nutritious: good for health (as in food)
  • corporation: company
  • risk: danger
  • oppose: be against; not support or agree with

Practice these new vocabulary words here: Junk Food at School

Junk Food at School

  1. Over the last 15 years, many high schools and middle schools in the United States have allowed snack foods such as soft drinks, candy, and potato chips to be sold in vending machines in their buildings. Expensive advertising campaigns, paid for by the makers of these products, have encouraged students to snack on junk food instead of healthy food such as fruits and vegetables.
  2. As a result, many students eat junk food for lunch and during the day. Federal and state rules that restrict vending machine products from being sold at lunchtime are simply ignored.
  3. Students who eat junk food every day are likely to become obese or to suffer from tooth decay. As adults, they may develop serious diseases, like diabetes, which add to the country’s health care costs.
  4. Yet schools continue to make junk food easily available to students. They do this because their government-funded budgets only cover basic school services. The money they receive from junk food manufacturers can add $50,000 or more to their budgets each year. Schools that allow only one particular brand of soft drink, such as Coke, to be sold in vending machines can make much more money. This money is used to pay for things like computer equipment, field trips, special activities, and marching bands.
  5. The more junk food students buy from the vending machines, the more money the schools make.
  6. Since 2001, many U.S. lawmakers, parent groups, and communities have tried to change this situation. They believe that schools should sell nothing but nutritious food at lunchtime. They also believe that corporations should not be offering schools large sums of money to ignore the health risks of junk food. However, many schools have opposed their actions because they do not want to lose the money they make from junk food sales.
  7. Many people believe that, instead of being safe places, schools today are unhealthy places for students.

Post Reading Questions

  1. Why do you think so many children are obese today? What can parents and society do to prevent children from becoming obese?
  2. How have schools changed in the past forty or fifty years? Do you think it is the responsibility of public schools to provide extra-curricular activities to students or should this be the responsibility of parents?
  3. Do you think public school budgets should include funding for sports programs, music, arts, field trips, etc. or should they just cover basic educational services?
  4. Do you think that public schools should ask more big corporations to provide funding for the schools in exchange for endorsing (supporting) their products? Explain your answer.
  5. Do you think that big corporations such as Coca-Cola could be persuaded to change the products they sell in the vending machines? For example, many soft drink producers also make healthier products such as fruit juices, bottled water, etc.
  6. If schools decide to ban the sale of junk food in their schools, what are some other ways they could raise money?

Additional Resources