The Big Winner

School children are being taken advantage of by the large marketing companies that sell unhealthy products to them during the school day. In chapter two of Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlooser discusses how large companies are marketing their products in public schools. They take aim at young consumers in the hopes that they will be lifetime consumers.

Parents can have control over what their child is exposed to within their home, but have no control over the marketing that their child is exposed to in school. At home a parent makes the decision of what their child will eat and drink according to what they think is appropriate. This decision is taken out of their hands due to the junk food their children can be exposed to during the school day. Children go to school about ten months a year and they become a captive audience for marketers, if the school district allows it. Schlooser states that opponents of marketing in schools find that children are forced to look at ads as a way of paying for their own education. He points out that some schools have lost revenue due to an increase in students and less tax money. This leaves the schools desperate, looking for a way to increase their school funds. Marketing fast foods in their schools can bring in that extra money.

Schools make money by selling candy in order to get money for materials that are needed in a school or to help support team sports. The truth is that the marketing companies are the big winners. Large companies make a great deal of money by sponsoring these candy drives, and the schools make money too. Students might get a little prize for their effort. There is usually one big prize, such as a bike, for the one big winner that makes the most sales. Kids don’t understand the odds of winning the big prize, so they work hard to sell junk food hoping they will be the big winner. How much of the candy being sold is being eaten by the students themselves is not of concern to the school or the big companies.

Schools and junk food companies take advantage of the fact that children are uneducated consumers. In many of the schools in the United States there are machines full of junk food that is made available to students during their lunch breaks. While schools are trying to improve their lunch menus to make them healthier, they are still encouraging students to eat junk food by tempting them with machines. Some students who are given money by their parents to pay for their school lunch use the money to buy these unhealthy snacks. They no longer have to but their junk food before getting to school because they can get it in school. The big junk food manufactures get great profits off this, but the kids get empty calories that don’t provide good health.

One of the special days in school that children look forward to is career day. On this day parents, as well as representatives from large companies, come in to discuss the jobs they do in the outside world. For example, a pilot will come in and give kids an overview of his job. He will give them little wing pins as a gift. Representatives from large junk food companies are also invited to discuss their jobs. These representatives give out coupons to the kids. In this way the kids can visit a fast food restaurant and purchase a free burger, taco, or pizza. Chances are that the child will pester their parent until they are taken to use the coupon. Once they purchase their free item they will most likely order other foods to go with it. It’s likely that the parent accompanying the child will also order a meal. Once again, the fast food market wins. They give a little prize and get a lot back in return.

It is assumed that children go to school to be educated. They are taught how to read and write and learn other skills to prepare them to become useful citizens. During their school years they are taught about the food groups and how they are broken down. They have discussions about what foods are good for them. Yet at the same time, they are exposed to junk food and encouraged to eat it, so that the school can make a little profit, and junk food companies can make more money. Children need to be better educated about their food choices, and how these choices may affect their health now and in the future. The education system has the responsibility to teach children not only to be consumers of products, but to be wise consumers. Students would not be offered alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes in a school because they are bad for health, yet for profit schools will offer foods that are unhealthy. Some of the people that are in charge of keeping kids safe are not doing their job.

Children are in school to be educated, not to be taken advantage of.

Marissa Amaya
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