British students are rebelling at the new school cafeteria menu pushed by TV chef Jamie Oliver, who convinced the government to replace their high-fat, high-salt, deep-fried favorites with items such as baked potatoes and low-fat pizza. (Soda and candy also are banned.) "No matter how healthy it is, if kids don't like it they're not going to eat it," says Julie Critchlow, mother of a student at a Rotherham high school. Critchlow and another mother made the news last month by hawking hamburgers, sandwiches, and fries to kids at the school, slipping the contraband items through the fence. Although negative publicity led them to abandon their business, students who don't like the new cafeteria offerings can still bring bagged lunches or go home to eat, although they are no longer allowed to go off campus for fast food.
How long before these loopholes are closed? Once school officials assume the responsibility for monitoring what kids eat as part of the war on obesity, it's unlikely they will simply shrug at students' resistance and say, "Well, we tried." Crusaders like Oliver will insist they do more; he already has said bagged lunches should be banned. This is one danger of seemingly benign efforts such as the agreements by U.S. soft drink and food companies to change what they sell in public schools. Once it becomes clear such efforts have not made a noticeable difference, we will see proposals for measures, such as "fast-food-free zones," that extend beyond school grounds, impinge on parental authority, and restrict the freedom of adults.