Free the Twinkies!

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Over at Noboby's Business, Rogier van Bakel gives props to Colorado Gov. Bill Owens for vetoing a bill that would have required Centennial State schools to make sure half the crap in their vending machines was "nutritious." Owens, writes van Bakel, "understands that not everything requires the meddling of politicians."

More here. And check out his bit about the ineffectiveness of such school bans here.

Reason's Jacob Sullum pondered the politics of pudge here and I considered the missing chins of former HHS Secretary Tommy "Two-Ton" Thompson here.

NEXT: Take This $10,000 And Shove It

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  1. Here in Jersey they are doing the same thing. I agree. Parents do not pay their hard-earned taxes and tuitions to have their kids exposed to crap food. Yes, the kids may find other ways of getting it, but the school itself should not in any way promote the sales of crap to kids. Besides, it runs contrary to the very being of a school. It’s like having schools sell books on how to not learn.

    JMJ

  2. Just because kids “pour out” of school at lunchtime to buy junk food elsewhere, that doesn’t mean even a plurality of the students who were eating poorly before are doing this with the same frequency. It’s possible, but with only a couple of generalized hyperbolic quotes to go on, I’m gonna be skeptical on this one until I see the numbers.

    In the meantime, to use the sensible libertarian logic endlessly flogged here when it comes to violent videogames, sex on TV and cuss-words in pop music, shouldn’t parents have the primary role in deciding what their kids should and should not snack on between classes? If they want their kids to have a bag of Cheez Doodlez and a bottle of Moutain Dew Code Red at second-period study hall, why don’t they let the kids pack them before they head out to school?

    If it’s so libertarian to say that parents can tell their kids what they can and cannot rent at Blockbuster, where does this inalienable young-person’s right to vending-machine Funyuns come from?

  3. I can see the merits in having these decisions made locally rather than in the state capitol, but I find it difficult to get upset when public officials decide not to sell junk food on public property. I’m all in favor of the right to eat what you want, and I’ll insert all necessary libertarian disclaimers about the very existence of public education, but I don’t feel too oppressed if a public school doesn’t sell certain foods.

    (I guess that if the cafeteria is run by a private contractor then you could argue that it’s infringing the contractor’s rights, but (1) it all depends on the terms of the contract and (2) government contractors aren’t quite as private as other firms.)

  4. Jersey:

    Fuck you.

  5. it runs contrary to the very being of a school. It’s like having schools sell books on how to not learn.

    My child goes to school to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, science and a bit of social studies.

    I didn’t send her there to learn how to eat.

  6. Jeez Mark, what’d I say?

    Here, have a twinkie – truce? 😉

    JMJ

  7. If it’s so libertarian to say that parents can tell their kids what they can and cannot rent at Blockbuster, where does this inalienable young-person’s right to vending-machine Funyuns come from?

    Micro-managing vending machines via state law seems incredibly heavy-handed and is certainly nanny-statish. If parents want to micro-manage schools, they should do it via their local school boards.

  8. Thoreau,

    You can opt not to allow your child to purchase sweets at the school cafeteria. I’m not sure, but I imagine it is the same at contractor cafeterias (sodexho etcetera).
    I’m pretty sure that the issue is particular to vending machines.

  9. Micro-managing vending machines via state law seems incredibly heavy-handed and is certainly nanny-statish. If parents want to micro-manage schools, they should do it via their local school boards.

    Even that will be the wishes of a handful of connected busybodies and joykills imposed over everyone else.

  10. MK,

    Okay, so my little sarcastic point aside, would you pay a babysitter to come over to your house, watch your kids, and sell them candy bars?

    JMJ

  11. mk-

    I totally agree that parental decisions are more important that any decisions made by public officials. My only point was that it’s kind of hard to get upset if the government doesn’t make certain things available via vending machines on public property. If the parents of some kid with super metabolism don’t care that he eats lots of sweets, well, they can always let him take sweets to school in his lunch bag.

  12. My child goes to school to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, science and a bit of social studies.

    I didn’t send her there to learn how to eat.

    Thats bullshit.

    When I was in school I learned about health and nutrition, along with other things that werent “reading, writing, arithmetic, science and a bit of social studies”.

    In fact, promoting health is very much a function of most schools — which is why there are phys. ed programs and health classes and sex ed.

    I think schools should not be selling and promoting these types of foods, esp. when parent can not control the behavior of their young tots when they are at school. The school becomes the defacto guardian. The default position should be the more strict position, and the parent can override that by packing the junk food with lunch from home. There is no reason why all kids at school need guaranteed access to junk food in school. The school should be promoting good nutrition and making nutritious food available — since educating and promoting healthy lifestyles are already part of their cirriculum.

  13. If the parents of some kid with super metabolism don’t care that he eats lots of sweets, well, they can always let him take sweets to school in his lunch bag.

    For now. Until someone gets a bug up their ass that lunches that kids bring from home aren’t healthy enough and should be regulated. Like the situation in Great Britain with Jamie Oliver.

  14. Wow! Well said! I like CTom’s brand of Libertarianism! Pragmatic and realistic!

    JMJ

  15. This is relatively easy to fix without the heavy hand of state legislature.
    Simply offer the parents a debit card that is only useable at the cafeteria counter. The cafeteria counter normally only has good for you stuff (and the occasional jello-pudding bowl).
    Last I checked, vending machines were not free and if they child has money to buy sweets he is either a)old enough to work and therefore make his own dietary decisions or b)being given money by his parents with the expectation that it would be spent on something other than his debit card based lunch.

    Parental control and less government intervention. Problem solved and you don’t even have to pack the kid’s lunch!

  16. You guys ever heard this one?

    Little Tony was sitting on a park bench munching
    on one candy bar after another.
    After the 6th candy bar, a man on the bench across from him said,
    “Son, you know eating all that candy isn’t good for you.
    It will give you acne, rot your teeth, and make you fat.”

    Little Tony replied, “My grandfather lived to be 107 years old.”

    The man asked, “Did your grandfather eat 6 candy bars at a time?”

    Little Tony answered, “No, he minded his own fucking business.”

  17. Let’s leave the strawmen in the hail field, may we?

    Despite the misgivings some of us have about public education in general, most libertarians recognize the legitimate authority of a local school board to decide what goes in its schools’ vending machines.

    Owens claimed to be deferring to localities as a reason for his veto, not recognizing the inalienable right of pee-wees to handy candy.

    Being that he’s a politician, I would hardly be shocked (shocked!) were it to surface that he’s signed or advocated legislation that could be seen as contradicting such deferrment to localities on what could be claimed to be some equivalent matter.

    But he did what he did and he gave the reason that he gave, and potential hypocrisies aside, it was the right decision for the right reason.

    REJOICE!!

  18. This may seem an odd question, but why are schools selling food at all? I managed to get all the way through highschool and never bought so much as a soda cracker from the cafeteria there. Every day I packed a lunch. Somehow I got by.

    The solution to this ‘problem’ seems to be to simply not involve the schools in irrelevant side businesses.

    Jake
    (who is living proof you can eat the same lunch for years and come out sane)

  19. Hail field?? Sheesh. Funny how mistakes are more obvious after they’re posted. In case that wasn’t clear, I meant “hay field”!

  20. Jersey:

    “Okay, so my little sarcastic point aside, would you pay a babysitter to come over to your house, watch your kids, and sell them candy bars?”

    No, but I’d like to think that I have the freedom to do so if I want.

    ChiTom:

    “In fact, promoting health is very much a function of most schools — which is why there are phys. ed programs and health classes and sex ed.”

    Therein we see the problem: they’ve failed miserably in that department, as have parents. Over the past 20 years, as we’ve seen childhood obesity rates rise steadily, we’ve also seen the cause. And-surpise!-it’s not calories. Over these last few decades, adolescent calorie consumption has risen only slightly, while physical activity has plummeted drastically.

    So, if these micromanaging tweeds in Congress or state legislatures really want to micromanage kids’ waistlines, they should focus on how much exercise the kids get, and how successful their phys-ed classes are.

    “I think schools should not be selling and promoting these types of foods, esp. when parent can not control the behavior of their young tots when they are at school.”

    I’m glad you *think* so. Good for you. The reality is that banning junkfood in vending machines has done nothing to healthen up the yunguns. So why keep trying it?

    “The school should be promoting good nutrition and making nutritious food available — since educating and promoting healthy lifestyles are already part of their cirriculum.”

    So, would you suggest stocking soda machines with fruit juice? Just wondering. And I’m afraid that the vending machines aren’t the biggest culprit—it’s not been THAT long since I was in high school, and when I was there, I packed my own lunch, because the shit they served in the cafeteria was nasty and not very healthy.

  21. I imagine that schools sell food to make extra money.

    Which, of course, makes me wonder why so much money in taxes gets taken from my check to go to these schools.

    I don’t really have a problem with schools making some side money by selling food, I’m just thinking “out loud”.

    When I was a kid, my parents would hardly ever let me eat sweets or drink soda. They were perfectly capable of controlling what I ate. Even when I went to a school where they sold less-than-healthy alternatives to what my parents’ would pack in my lunch, I rarely was able to indulge because my folks would simply not give me much money, but would still pack my lunch.

    Is that so hard to do today?

  22. I think schools should not be selling and promoting these types of foods, esp. when parent can not control the behavior of their young tots when they are at school.

    You do realize that the majority of “kids” that such regulations are protecting are between 13-18. You don’t generally see vending machines in K-5 schools.

  23. Hmm, somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the school lunch/breakfast programs were created to fight poverty, not make money. The theory is some kid’s parents won’t make them nutritious lunches, and you can’t learn while hungry, so the state will provide good food at a low price so the children will learn.
    I wonder how that turned out.


  24. Here in Jersey they are doing the same thing. I agree. Parents do not pay their hard-earned taxes and tuitions to have their kids exposed to crap food. Yes, the kids may find other ways of getting it, but the school itself should not in any way promote the sales of crap to kids. Besides, it runs contrary to the very being of a school. It’s like having schools sell books on how to not learn.

    Sounds to me like the healthfood lobby bought more politicians than the junkfood lobby in Jersy, but over in Colorado, Owens got more constributions from the junkfood lobby.

  25. “It’s like having schools sell books on how to not learn.”

    Bad analogy, JMJ. If that analogy were true, the schools would not be providing food at all. (or worse, providing incentive to disgorge food instead).

    The proper analogy would be “It’s like having schools sell books that teach something that (if taken to excess) could be bad for them”

  26. Despite the misgivings some of us have about public education in general, most libertarians recognize the legitimate authority of a local school board to decide what goes in its schools’ vending machines.

    The state improperly micro-manages all the other aspects of its school systems, so why not vending machines?

    This may seem an odd question, but why are schools selling food at all?

    Follow the money:

    During the three years of his school’s exclusive vending contract with Pepsi, Stofa said, the company has helped finance school landscaping, purchased jackets for the security staff, sponsored academic and multicultural events, and supplied a scoreboard, too.

    “The kids know all that Pepsi has done for the school,” he said, “and they really appreciate it.”

  27. It’s a tough sell to argue that what goes on in a facility owned, operated, and funded by the public is “nobody’s business,” or should be immune from the “meddling” of the government.

    How about those politicians on the school board?

  28. “Parents do not pay their hard-earned taxes and tuitions to have their kids exposed to crap food.”

    Who’s forcing the “crap food” on the poor children? If it’s in a vending machine, which you have to put money in to get, then it’s not the “taxes/tuitions” that are enabling the children to be subjected to “harmful fats and sugars”, but the parents that give their kids their $2-5 for daily snack/junk lunch.

    Did you even attend a public school, Jersey? I survived quite well from 1985-1998 on an occasional pop, bag of chips, or Snickers bar at recess without becoming a hideous blob (unless BMI has been reconfigured again so that 6’/160lb is obese.) How did I avoid it? Ummm… maybe because pop, chips, and candy were not my main sustainance.

    Alas, I am a remenant of a less enlightened time (poor abused, beatten, mentally scared me.) My parents told me when to go to bed, where I couldn’t go, what time to be home, to eat what was on my plate even if I didn’t like it, and I could expect a quick slap if I talked back (and those cruel, heartless, abusers continue this vile treatment on my teenaged baby brother.)

  29. Coyote: your parents sound like mine, maybe we need to start a support group.

  30. David makes an excellent point. And the reality that follows from that is that, unless the school prohibits it or the school is in the middle of nowhere, these teens are going to go off-campus for lunch.

    And, as the accompanying chills down my spine have told me, the next step, I suppose, is to slap a minimum age on “junk food” at all stores and restaurants too, like alcohol & tobacco. “One Snickers bar, please.” “Alright, son, may I see your ID, please?”

  31. Also, I prefer Chocodiles to Twinkies.

  32. “Over these last few decades, adolescent calorie consumption has risen only slightly, while physical activity has plummeted drastically.”

    And allow the poor children to be competitive and agressive, potentially hurt themselves or others (mentally and physically)? No, no, we can’t allow that! Parents don’t pay taxes and tuitions for their children to be hurt, picked on, or not made to feel that they are a unique and beautiful part of their own little world.

  33. Therein we see the problem: they’ve failed miserably in that department, as have parents. Over the past 20 years, as we’ve seen childhood obesity rates rise steadily, we’ve also seen the cause. And-surpise!-it’s not calories. Over these last few decades, adolescent calorie consumption has risen only slightly, while physical activity has plummeted drastically.

    who have failed? The schools? How so? How is it the school’s fault that “physical activity has plummeted drastically”. In fact, the schools are doing the best they can in trying to balance the education requirements and health/nutrician needs.

    If kids are less active, then the blame lies squarely on the parents. What more should the schools do? Most already require 3 years of PE and for the students to pass fitness tests (running the mile, doing a min. number of push-ups etc.) in order to graduate. They also offer a wide array of extracirricular sports that practice almost every day during the season thus allowing even more physical activity.
    What else would you propse the schools do, while not scaling back traditional education subjects even more?

    I’m glad you *think* so. Good for you. The reality is that banning junkfood in vending machines has done nothing to healthen up the yunguns. So why keep trying it?

    Schools should not be empowering even more unhealthy lifestyle choices. If the kids and parent have no problem with being unhealthy that’s fine, but the school shouldn’t be aiding that. Just because the bans wont magically make the kids healthier , doesn’t mean they should stop trying to promote healtier lifestyle choices altogether and avoid making the worst foods available to kids who aren’t mature enough to make proper informed decisions.

    So, would you suggest stocking soda machines with fruit juice?

    Well, when I was in school we had soda machines, but we weren’t allowed to buy anything from them until after school was out. At that point you could buy what you wanted. But I don’t think a can of soda is the issue here — even fruit juices are mostly just sugar-water with low nutritional content. Its the availability of snacks like twinkies, cup cakes, candy bars etc. They should have vending machines with healthy snacks or fruits, yogurts, things like that. Or better yet, get rid of the vending machines altogether, and only sell milk and water. Kids can bring their own soda/juice boxes if they really need / want it so bad.

  34. Yep when you have a public institution it is a tug of war over which extremist idiots get to make the rules.

    My son will be going to private school provided I don’t have a financial crisis. I will just consider my taxes to schools a charitable contribution I can’t write off. Of course here in Georgia the lottery pays for a lot of this anyway. I am fine with that solution, I like voluntary taxes a lot better for public services.

    As much as I hate to say it, the debate over crap food in schools is a legit one. As much as my libertarian purity would like all schools to be private I don’t really see it as feasable.

    I do believe the “if you offer them bad food they will just eat all of it and get fat” arguement smacks of the “if we give ’em free condoms they will be screwing like rabbits” arguement. Totally stupid and makes no sense. Kids are going to do what they want regardless, it is up to the parents to provide direction.

    I NEVER ate the school lunch, only dorks ate in the cafeteria. LOL.

    But anyway.

  35. You do realize that the majority of “kids” that such regulations are protecting are between 13-18. You don’t generally see vending machines in K-5 schools.

    so 13-18 year olds aren’t “kids” who are beholden to the will of the parents? I don’t see what the point of your statement is

    David makes an excellent point. And the reality that follows from that is that, unless the school prohibits it or the school is in the middle of nowhere, these teens are going to go off-campus for lunch.

    What a strawman. No one is arguing that the schools prevent the children from procuring it on their own. If they choose to — and their parents have provided the funds, they can. Just like they can eat them if they bring it to school with them.

    The point is that the school should not be providing these things. If you choose not to see that difference, then you are being wilfully dishonest.

  36. “who have failed? The schools? How so? How is it the school’s fault that “physical activity has plummeted drastically”. In fact, the schools are doing the best they can in trying to balance the education requirements and health/nutrician needs.”

    I love it. State fails, statists make excuses for the state and call for even more state action. “But they TRIED!” Please. You willfully ignored my statement. I said that both parents and schools have failed. Oh, but, hey, Tom, why actually read my whole paragraph!? That’s too much work.

    “If kids are less active, then the blame lies squarely on the parents. What more should the schools do? Most already require 3 years of PE and for the students to pass fitness tests (running the mile, doing a min. number of push-ups etc.) in order to graduate. They also offer a wide array of extracirricular sports that practice almost every day during the season thus allowing even more physical activity.
    What else would you propse the schools do, while not scaling back traditional education subjects even more?”

    My point was that nutrition has proven to not be the realm where schools have any real influence. You can blather about how the schools are rrrreaaalllly trying HARD to do well, but the bloody reality is that they can’t do it. Which is why these nonsensical bans on “junkfood” are pragmatically useless. For the reasons I’ve succinctly outlined for you.

    “Schools should not be empowering even more unhealthy lifestyle choices. If the kids and parent have no problem with being unhealthy that’s fine, but the school shouldn’t be aiding that. Just because the bans wont magically make the kids healthier , doesn’t mean they should stop trying to promote healtier lifestyle choices altogether and avoid making the worst foods available to kids who aren’t mature enough to make proper informed decisions.”

    In other words, it doesn’t matter if it actually works or not. We should do it because it’s a “good idea”. The funny thing is, you’re dead serious.

  37. “so 13-18 year olds aren’t “kids” who are beholden to the will of the parents? I don’t see what the point of your statement is”

    His point was that you referred to “tots”. 13 years old is hardly a “tot”.

  38. If the other Mark kills JMJ, the former should invoke the Twinkie defense.

  39. I wanna chime in defending JMJ from too much criticism here, especially the big f-u early on. He may be arguing from a leftish pov, he’s been cool about it on this thread.

    While you can, if you want, opt out of sending your kids to school, its difficult and not particularly easy. So most of us had to go. As such, it’s not too much to ask that they not give state-sanctioned monopoly rights to vendors of food that does not serve the purpose of providing sustenance for educational purposes (kids might need lunch, but they don’t need twinkies).

    Part of this might be sour grapes that my school was a good half-mile from the nearest purveyor of Coca-Cola, but I don’t see anything wrong with keeping the level of sugar-buzzed rugrats to a minimum.

  40. Amigo it was a BIG day at the cafeteria in grade school when they had tater tots! YUM!

  41. Somewhat on-topic, but does anybody know where I can purchase some gubmint Mexican Pizza (a.k.a. Pig Vomit)? That shit was so good. And I’ve never found it anywhere except school cafeterias.

  42. of all the offenses the government commits, this is, admittedly, pretty low on my list. Really. The only problem I really truly have with it is that schools have proven to be ineffectual WRT kids’ health. So why is this a recurring issue?

  43. I’m far more concerned with the students being exposed to public education.

  44. Evan, I read it. It was a bunch of undefended assertions. I didn’t ignore it. I called bullshit. Its a bullshit statement.

    You make the claim that the “state failed” without providing how exactly the state failed. Where has the state failed? It forces them to do excersize daily and learn nutrition / health. How exactly is that a failure on the part of the state? It’s the state’s fault when kids go home and play PS2 or Xbox all night, instead of being physically active?

    In fact, “the state” is doing quite well. They are educating and they are forcing excersize. When I said the “best they can” I mean they are doing the most they can without intruding into the child’s home / family life and stepping on the toes of the parents.

    If I take a class, and don’t study on my own, or do any work outside of sitting through lectures, is it the teacher who failed me or did I fail myself?

    So where is this failure on the part of “the state” you keep asserting?

    In other words, it doesn’t matter if it actually works or not. We should do it because it’s a “good idea”. The funny thing is, you’re dead serious

    What the hell are you talking about? If what actually works? Just because one can’t completely irradicate bad bahavior doesn’t mean we should empower bad behavior. Not offering bad food is a very successful way of not empowering kids to eat bad food. Much more successful than promoting nutrition while peddling non-nutritious food.

  45. of all the offenses the government commits, this is, admittedly, pretty low on my list. Really. The only problem I really truly have with it is that schools have proven to be ineffectual WRT kids’ health. So why is this a recurring issue?

    So the mentality of the linked article (and Evan’s) position seems to be equivalent to … if i know you are gonna go out and kill someone despite my disapproval and protests, I may as well give you the gun instead of forcing you to procure it on your own.

    Uh huh…there’s some fantastic reasoning.

  46. “It’s the state’s fault when kids go home and play PS2 or Xbox all night, instead of being physically active?”

    You can’t exactly let them go out on the streets unsupervised and “come back when the street-lights come on” any more, that’s neglect.

    Just the other day, my neighbor’s 2 kids were playing in their back yard. A little later, a cop goes to my neighbor’s house, is there about 5 minutes, and leaves. My neighbor later told me that someone called the cops because the kids were “unsupervised”. However, the mother was watching from the window above the kitchen sink, but it shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

  47. Thoreau,

    True enough. Of course, I don’t see why there need necessarily be any vending machines in schools.

    What they really need is a Starbuck’s.

    First kid to order a skinny latte with whipped cream gets a swirlie.

  48. Back when I was in high school, you could buy all the crap food you wanted in the cafeteria itself or at a store run by students. You could smoke, too (outside).

  49. shouldn’t parents have the primary role in deciding what their kids should and should not snack on between classes?

    Only if they home-school.

  50. Hideous Blob,

    Lol. I went to USGov run schools in Germany. Outside of my school you could buy beer. 2 blocks away you could get a prostitute.

    And no, I am not saying that is a good idea.

  51. Fat kids are going to be adults who spend a lot on medical care and fitness gurus. They will need more insuline, wheelchairs, walkers, etc. Think of the economic benefits to the people in the industries that servcie fat, infirm adults. Everybody from home-care nurses to ophthamologists stand to lose if kids are fit. Fatter corpses mean bigger coffins.

  52. They can ban junk food in the vending machines all they want.

    I guarantee that by the end of the week, some enterprising youngster will have made his way to Sam’s where he’s purchased a case or two of Payday and Snickers bars, and will then proceed to sell them to students at school for a rather tidy profit.

  53. ChicagoTom

    If they choose to — and their parents have provided the funds, they can. Just like they can eat them if they bring it to school with them.

    The point is that the school should not be providing these things. If you choose not to see that difference, then you are being wilfully dishonest.

    It seems that you are the one that can’t see a difference between a vending machine consisting of food that has very little negative health effects when taken in moderation and a government run food abuse scandal.

    As others have readily pointed out – even with vending machines must one still actually pay for the food. No to mention the completely separate point of whether the food is dangerous to anyone.

    Mediageek –

    My school didn’t have vending machines, but we had two enterprising students that readily made up the difference. I could even order and get it the next day.

  54. I don’t really care about vending machines in schools one way or the other, when I was in HS from 98-02 we had a water bottle/fruitopia machine, a powerade machine, and maybe a soda machine too? I forget exactly, but it was fine. HS kids are generally 14-18, I mean, no kid wants to get fat because then they won’t get any play, I don’t really understand the big problem here, but you know what I was thinking…younger kids don’t do anything now because playgrounds totally suck now.
    Have you seen what passes as a playground these days? Boring metal and plastic pieces of shit! When I was in elementary school, we had this great big wooden playground, playing tag there was the best. Sure we got bumps and bruises, splinters and other hurts, but we didn’t care. It’s sad because these days playgrounds seem so child-proof and safe that they aren’t even fun anymore! I’m not saying this is why little kids are fat these days, but the other day I was watching the news with my parents and we saw gyms for kids! And the kids were actually lifting weights, I’m pretty sure that young kids aren’t supposed to lift weights. Just some points, l8r sk8rz

  55. Why are you sending your kids to PUBLIC school if you don’t like twinkies in your kid’s school? If you’re not willing to take care of your child the way you think he should be, why should the government? DUMB.

    You get what you pay for.

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