No Chips, No Candy, No Money?

The results are in. After a six-month ban on all junk food in Los Angeles secondary public schools, the numbers aren’t looking so good. With about a 60 percent decrease in revenue, the school isn’t declaring a success, but they’re not throwing in the towel either.

As of July 1, 2004, the school district replaced junk food with healthier fare in the school store and in vending machines on campuses. Funding has become an issue though since most schools receive much-needed revenue from the profits of food sales.

“We’re looking at this as more of a health issue than as an economic one,” Terri Minami, director of school fiscal services of the LA Unified School District, said. “I have a feeling that the ban will be permanent. Sales [of the healthier food] are gradually picking up, just very, very slowly. [The school district] is optimistic.”

Students are still allowed to bring their own goodies from home, and food served in the cafeteria is not subject to the ban although meals must meet federal lunch program guidelines. Fundraisers involving candy bars or other treats were prohibited from school property during school hours, but are still allowed off campus.

The ban was put into effect after the school board passed an obesity prevention motion, Minami said. The motion also includes a plan for leadership classes put on by students to promote healthier snacks and beverages, and a physical activity component.

The most difficult part of the ban is getting kids to actually try the healthier food. Vendors of the food have visited the schools talking about their products, health and handing out samples.

Although Minami expects sales of the healthier food to increase and eventually even out once students adjust to the change in offered food, she said it’s important for schools to seek out other, more creative ways to increase revenue.

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