Obesity

I'll Trade You My Soda Authorization for Your Ice Cream Authorization

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Here's an interesting alternative to yanking soda, potato chips, and candy from vending machines in schools: A company called Vend Sentinel offers a system that allows parents to pay for their children's beverages and snacks in advance and decide which items they're allowed to buy, using a swipe card and PIN number. I imagine this arrangement might lead to a gray market in vending machine cards, as kids with stricter parents pay kids with more permissive ones for the privilege of buying a Coke or a Snickers bar. Still, it puts the responsibility for controlling what kids eat where it belongs, while providing a diversity of options to reflect a diversity of parental preferences.

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  1. Why sell the cards, when kids could just trade out (or sell outright) the snacks they get with the cards. Anybody remember the old Mott’s apple sauce commercial where the kid would conduct negotiations to trade his coveted apple sauce for cash or other treats? The kids with the debit cards would become the ‘haves’ profiting from the sugar-starved have-nots.

  2. It won’t answer the argument of those who worry about what other people allow their kids to do. They don’t accept “It’s the parents’ responsibility” as a valid response if the parents act differently than they would.

  3. Let them eat cake.

  4. Seriously, what is up with Reason’s bizarre obsession with making sure junk food is available for kids in school?

  5. David –
    Very perceptive I must say. I agree that is the exact problem that will arise with this plan.

    barris –
    It’s well observed that Reason seems to like allowing people to choose things for themselves. Have you ever seen an article complaining about a private school controlling what children can and cannot buy for lunch? No. You seem to consistently miss the “principle trumps what I think is best for children” part of libertarian arguments on the subject.

  6. Seriously, what is up with Reason’s bizarre obsession with making sure junk food is available for kids in school?

    They’re just shilling for Big Little Debbie.


  7. barris –
    It’s well observed that Reason seems to like allowing people to choose things for themselves. Have you ever seen an article complaining about a private school controlling what children can and cannot buy for lunch? No. You seem to consistently miss the “principle trumps what I think is best for children” part of libertarian arguments on the subject.

    So in other words, public schools must be open marketplaces? Last I checked, there were a number of items that could not be purchased at school. If the Gap or Eddie Bauer wanted to set up a kiosk, would schools be compelled to let them?

  8. I imagine this arrangement might lead to a gray market in vending machine cards

    That’s exactly what would happen. When I was in school the kids with the free lunch program would sell you their lunch for a dollar. Never underestimate the capitalist instincts of kids.

    It seems to me the behavior of kids is always the missing part of the discussion when it comes to any “issue” facing our children. My parents taught me smoking was bad for you. I smoked. They told me all the dangers of drugs. I did them. They packed me balanced lunches. I traded them for Twinkies. These were all choices I made on my own fully aware of what I was doing.

    Kids aren’t little robots. The don’t respond to programing any better than any other human being.

  9. So in other words, public schools must be open marketplaces? Last I checked, there were a number of items that could not be purchased at school. If the Gap or Eddie Bauer wanted to set up a kiosk, would schools be compelled to let them?

    This is a false hypothetical for someone who doesn’t believe in public schools. I personally think it would be hilarious if such a scenario ever came up in real life.

    It would never happen, though, because people would be too concerned about what other people’s kids were wearing. And by selling those clothes in the school, you are clearly promoting that children wear them, because they won’t buy midriff tops and unfitted polo shirts and bring them with them to school if they weren’t available to them to purchase at school.

  10. Barris (is that you Dan T?)

    Gap or Eddie Bauer in a school is hilarious! It would have two immediate effects:

    kids that get bullied can get a change of clothes

    and

    bullies will be able to double dip, as it were, on their victims.

    both scenarios: $$$ moolah. cuz more clothing would have to be purchased.

    and then we could take that moolah (cha ching) and, like, buy stuff. ID stickers or something. New stuff for the football team.

    ROCK ON!!!

  11. This whole scheme would create balance in the universe. The kids whose parents let them eat junk would trade their junk credits and eat less junk. The kids whose parents only let them eat carrots can afford to eat some junk.

    As a former teacher, I think schools should get rid of all that sugary crap. It makes the kids nuts (whether it’s the sugar or the driving desire to possess the stupid drink, I don’t know) and wastes class time – i.e., taxpayers money. OK, that last part is a stretch, but although Coke and Snapple might be paying to have access to the kids, it sort of defeats the purpose of the school.

  12. This is a false hypothetical for someone who doesn’t believe in public schools. I personally think it would be hilarious if such a scenario ever came up in real life.

    It would never happen, though, because people would be too concerned about what other people’s kids were wearing. And by selling those clothes in the school, you are clearly promoting that children wear them, because they won’t buy midriff tops and unfitted polo shirts and bring them with them to school if they weren’t available to them to purchase at school.

    Reinmoose, let’s assume for the sake of discussion that public schools have a legitmate place in our society.

    That assumption being made, the argument that barris is putting forth does not really have anything to do with clothes, but rather the contention that schools are obligated to allow any company to sell any product on school grounds and that if they don’t they are somehow violating children’s right to buy anything they want at any time.

  13. um – Dan T: check out your email over your name. You didn’t switch to your political satire site:

    barris@freeport.net

    BTW – didja watch the all star game? Does anybody know why Tony didn’t put in Pujols in to hit instead of Rowand?

  14. an interesting idea, but vend sentinel is just about the worst fucking name for a company ever.

  15. barris/Dan T.

    Children NEED to eat while at school. They do not NEED to buy clothes while at school. The school provides food or children bring their own food. If you don’t like the food being served, bring your own. This is a stupid hypothetical.

  16. Children NEED to eat while at school. They do not NEED to buy clothes while at school.

    Whoa – who are you to decide what children need to do while at school?

  17. Mere mortals cannot comprehend the logic of LaRussa.

    Didn’t have vending machines at my school back in the day. This sort of stuff never came up.

  18. Vend Sentinel? He’s my cousin on my mother’s side. For an autobot, he’s kind of an asshole.

  19. I imagine this arrangement might lead to a gray market in vending machine cards, as kids with stricter parents pay kids with more permissive ones for the privilege of buying a Coke or a Snickers bar. Still, it puts the responsibility for controlling what kids eat where it belongs, while providing a diversity of options to reflect a diversity of parental preferences.

    Come on – surely I’m not the only person here who recognizes how incoherant Mr. Sullum’s argument is here.

    First he speculates that this vending machine arrangement will allow kids to easily circumvent their parents’ wishes as to what kinds of foods they should eat. Then in the very next sentence he concludes that it will allow parents to control what their kids eat, which he considers to be the way it should be.

    Like I said, this whole “schools have a duty to sell kids junk food” campaign is truly bizarre. The only conclusion I can reach is that Mr. Sullum’s contempt for the entire idea of public education is such that he will defy common sense to offer the most ridiculous of criticisms.

  20. Dan T:

    check out how Dr. Elders’s words on masturbation got twisted, above. You’ll love it, considering your zeal with this topic.

    And are you going to stick with Dan T or Barris?

  21. Whoa – who are you to decide what children need to do while at school?

    Umm… in your hypothetical, it’s a public school, remember? I do have a say, regardless of whether or not I should.

    Ass

  22. And are you going to stick with Dan T or Barris?

    I’ll go with Dan T. until spoofed again, then I’ll come up with something else for a few days.

  23. Umm… in your hypothetical, it’s a public school, remember? I do have a say, regardless of whether or not I should.

    Okay, so we agree that as long as public schools exist, it’s okay for the public to make some judgment calls as to what is appropriate to provide for the students. Most of us will agree that students need to eat during the day, but it’s unclear as to whether students’ rights are being violated because they can’t purchase junk food, as Mr. Sullum seems to be saying.

  24. Where does Mr. Sullum say that students rights are violated if they aren’t able to purchase junk food at school?

    And what exactly is the measurement for determining what is and is not junk food? As a vegetarian, I might suggest that antibiotic-laden grade-C hamburgers are junk food, but they certainly will not be removed from the menu if I support some measure to remove junk food from school cafeterias. Or wait.. did you think there were some universal terms by which everyone would agree on what food to serve children at school?
    I don’t want my kid to have access to lettuce because he’s allergic to it! AHHH!!! We have to get lettuce out of our schools because some kid who’s allergic to it might eat it and die!!! AHHHHHH!!!

    honestly, wtf?

  25. Where does Mr. Sullum say that students rights are violated if they aren’t able to purchase junk food at school?

    I don’t know if he ever has directly stated that, but it seems to be what he’s getting at after multiple H&R entires on the subject. Otherwise it’s hard to see what his argument is. Even you wrote that this is about “allowing people to choose things for themselves. ”


    And what exactly is the measurement for determining what is and is not junk food? As a vegetarian, I might suggest that antibiotic-laden grade-C hamburgers are junk food, but they certainly will not be removed from the menu if I support some measure to remove junk food from school cafeterias. Or wait.. did you think there were some universal terms by which everyone would agree on what food to serve children at school?
    I don’t want my kid to have access to lettuce because he’s allergic to it! AHHH!!! We have to get lettuce out of our schools because some kid who’s allergic to it might eat it and die!!! AHHHHHH!!!

    I think that when the policy debate is “Do we allow X” it requires a general assumption as to what constitutes X. Only once we agree to allow or not allow X is it important to define strictly what X is. So for the sake of argument let’s agree that there exists a category of consumables generally known as “junk food” even if people might disagree as to the specifics of what fits into that category.

  26. can you honestly prove that the preventative junk food and fast-clothes outlets are actually keeping the bedonkadonk level to low levels?

    how can preventative prophylaxis keep the wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube men from attacking? TELL US WHAT TO DO!!!!!

    Where z is a vector of contemporaneous explanatory variables, and G can be the probit or logit function. There are several important points about this model…

    Original Chicago style stuffed pizza or thin crust, it’s just as tasty at Gino’s.

  27. So for the sake of argument let’s agree that there exists a category of consumables generally known as “junk food” even if people might disagree as to the specifics of what fits into that category

    But that’s just it Dan, that’s exactly it. Since everyone’s definition of junk food is different, and we all agree that we don’t want our own children eating junk food all the time (based on our own definitions of junk food, not necessarily on your definition of junk food or on some compromised societal definition of junk food), ridding “our” schools of junk food would involve not serving anything at all, or nothing that the loudest people decide shouldn’t be served.

    What would be your response if the joint collective decided Fruitopia (that shit’s not still around, is it?) is a suitable alternative to soda and does not constitute “junk,” but I don’t buy it for my son at home specifically because he drinks it uncontrollably and overdoes his system with vitamin C. How am I supposed to send him to school if it’s readily available for him in the vending machines? Shouldn’t it be removed because too much vitamin C isn’t good for the immune system, and we do want healthy children, right?

  28. Reinmoose,

    Vitamin C is water soluble; you can’t overdose on it. Any excess is excreted in urine. Megadoses of vitamin C may give you diarrhea though.

  29. For the record:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9407E4DB173DF93AA35757C0A96E958260
    (I would also like to point out the I have no idea if Fruitopia actually had Vitamin C in it, but if it did, I bet it was a suppliment, not a natural source)

    And not that it matters, it’s merely a hypothetical situation. It could be replaced with any number of things.

  30. [pedant mode]
    Solubility in water does not preclude overdose.

    Water soluble things that a person can overdose on:
    – cocaine hydrochloride
    – just about any opiate
    – just about any drug normally delivered via liquid solution, whether orally, IM, or IV.
    – water, for that matter.

    [/pedant mode]

  31. The only foods that are even economical to serve in school lunch programs aren’t healthy anyway, and the cost is already sky high. The main food groups ar sugar, fat, gristle, fat, and grease and can be found in standard school dishes like burgers, patties, pizza, and fries. So all of this healthy food for kids crap is just shooting a dead fucking horse. If parents really have a problem then they might as well brown bag it.

  32. But that’s just it Dan, that’s exactly it. Since everyone’s definition of junk food is different, and we all agree that we don’t want our own children eating junk food all the time (based on our own definitions of junk food, not necessarily on your definition of junk food or on some compromised societal definition of junk food), ridding “our” schools of junk food would involve not serving anything at all, or nothing that the loudest people decide shouldn’t be served.

    I’m just saying that “should schools serve junk food” and “what is junk food” are two different issues. In fact, if the decision is made that schools must serve all food products, then there is no reason to debate the second issue.

    In a more general sense, I agree with you that pretty much any policy put into place is not going to please all the people all the time. At some point, a subjective decision will have to be made about what is allowed and what isn’t.

    So I don’t know if Fruitopia counts as junk food. That question exists at a level of detail that I don’t find to be worth caring about.

  33. It won’t answer the argument of those who worry about what other people allow their kids to do. They don’t accept “It’s the parents’ responsibility” as a valid response if the parents act differently than they would.

    No, it’s because we don’t want to have pay for somebody else’s kid’s diabetes treatment because mom and dad were okay with him having a candy bar and soda for lunch.

  34. No, it’s because we don’t want to have pay for somebody else’s kid’s diabetes treatment because mom and dad were okay with him having a candy bar and soda for lunch.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the problem with the current health care system.

    Ok Dan, I’ll bite.
    when you say:
    In fact, if the decision is made that schools must serve all food products, then there is no reason to debate the second issue.
    I would reverse that to say that because we can’t reasonably define “what is junk food,” then we shouldn’t even be discussing “should schools serve junk food,” as to try to discuss something that is undefined is ridiculous.

  35. “In a more general sense, I agree with you that pretty much any policy put into place is not going to please all the people all the time. At some point, a subjective decision will have to be made about what is allowed and what isn’t.”

    No, if no one can agree, which is almost always the case, then the decision should be left up to individuals, or in this case, their parents as well. And if parents really have a problem with it, then they should make their own meals for their kids. And if the kids have a problem with that, then they really should tell their parents to fuck off.

    Anyway, if the lowest bidder food service provider at the school isn’t selling junk food anymore, then they will be forced to change their selections. It’s called the free market.

    Subjective decisions are what really piss people off.

  36. I certainly can’t think of a better way to get kids used to the operation of a market economy.

  37. I would reverse that to say that because we can’t reasonably define “what is junk food,” then we shouldn’t even be discussing “should schools serve junk food,” as to try to discuss something that is undefined is ridiculous.

    I don’t think it’s “undefined” at all – otherwise you’re saying that when you hear the term “junk food” you have absolutely no idea what the person who said it is talking about. And I doubt that’s the case.

    It’s almost as though you’re saying that in order to discuss the general question of whether or not schools should allow the sale junk food to students, I’d have to provide you with a comprehensive list of every product on the market that should not be allowed. Which is unreasonable, in my opinion. It’s perfectly acceptable to discuss things on general terms without having to get into precise details.

  38. No, if no one can agree, which is almost always the case, then the decision should be left up to individuals, or in this case, their parents as well.

    But not everybody agrees with this opinion. You’re guilty of violating your own maxim – thinking that your subjective view should be the one that counts even if others don’t share them.

  39. Maybe, Dan, but so what? It’s certainly preferable to deferring to the view of the most sensitive to the most controlling. Only those who need to control others feel that they’ve lost when everyone is free to choose for themselves.

  40. No, it’s because we don’t want to have pay for somebody else’s kid’s diabetes treatment because mom and dad were okay with him having a candy bar and soda for lunch.

    Do you now? Did I miss the part where every kid who has Nestle Crunch and a Coke for lunch instantly develops childhood diabetes?

  41. Maybe, Dan, but so what? It’s certainly preferable to deferring to the view of the most sensitive to the most controlling. Only those who need to control others feel that they’ve lost when everyone is free to choose for themselves.

    It’s really a tiresome strawman to assume that anybody who proposes any sort of policy is really just trying to “control” people. Not to pick on you, David, but I wish folks would at least be willing to entertain the possibility that everybody in the public sphere is out to get you.

  42. Do you now? Did I miss the part where every kid who has Nestle Crunch and a Coke for lunch instantly develops childhood diabetes?

    No, because I didn’t say that. Nor did I intend to imply that childhood diabetes develops from bad eating habits. What I do mean, is that the state has a reasonable interest in seeing that it’s citizens grow up to be healthy, and not diabetics whose treatment is being paid for by taxpayers. This does not mean that the state (or cities, or ISDs) should be able to dictate to you or I exactly what we eat in the day. However, it is not unreasonable for the state to say that schools shouldn’t be able to sell what is obviously junk food (definitional wrangling aside) to kids for profit. For that reason, I simply can’t get worked up about the “freedom” kids should supposedly have to eat junk for lunch, or the “freedom” parents supposedly should have to not care what their kids eat one way or the other.

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