A letter sent to the Canberra Times (Australian Capital Territory, Australia) in response to the Education Minister’s call to ‘crackdown’ on vending machines in schools.

Fat lot of good it’ll do

August 29, 2014

Vending machines and school canteens in public schools are once again the easy target in the ”war” on obesity (”Crackdown on school junk food: vending machines may go”, August 25, p3).

I do not know how many vending machines are left in schools but it cannot be so many as to be a significant contributor to the high sugar diets that too many people subject themselves to. The school canteen is another issue. They are expensive to run and there is a slim profit margin. The commercial imperative pushes canteen contractors down the junk food path. It would be a mistake to think that either of these is a significant causal contributor to the mal-nutrition that plagues Western diets. In fact it could be argued that it is obfuscation and avoidance of more significant issues.

The problem begins in the profit-driven corporate food manufacture and distribution, and the general anti-social character of our working lives.

Lunchboxes that come from home are loaded with disturbing amounts of high sugar and salt items. Chocolates and chips were once occasional treats but they have now become a lunchbox staple. Time-poor parents are attracted to these substitutes for good food because they are generally dressed up to appear healthy and are packaged to fit in a lunchbox.

If the Territory government were serious about addressing obesity and diet amongst our most vulnerable people, children, then it would need to initiate a campaign against all advertising of high sugar and salt ”food” in much the same way that tobacco has been dealt with. In the long run it will be only radical social change in the conduct of our daily lives and the manner of food production that can begin to address these multiple concerns.

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