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Community Commentary:Students need better options

June 18, 2007|By Anisha Patel

Domino's Pizza, assorted sandwiches and salad, chicken patties, teriyaki burger, chili dogs, grilled cheese, a Chalupa: Is this what you would feed your kids for lunch?

The Glendale Unified School District would. The above is the typical menu for lunch at Hoover High School. Chili dogs, chalupas and pizza — not exactly what you'd call a well-balanced meal.

Starting in July, certain snacks will be banned from all public high schools in California. Ahead of other schools, Hoover High School has already decreased the number of soda vending machines and discontinued the sale of all fried snacks. The school has taken an admirable lead in reducing the supply of unhealthy vending machine snacks even before the law's mandate.

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OK, so, consider the options Hoover students are left with — chili dogs, grilled cheese and burgers — options neither wholesome nor healthy.

Parents and schools are the primarily influences on a students' eating behavior, developed mainly during childhood and adolescence. With parents working full-time, many of the students' nutritional habits will be formed at school. Moreover, eating behaviors formed during adolescence become very difficult to change later on in life. Being accustomed to foods such as chili dogs and cheeseburgers can put students on a dangerous life trajectory in which they will become victims of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Our schools must take the necessary measures to ensure that our students are not eating McDonald's-like food for one of the most important meals of the day. Because adolescents are prone to risky eating behavior, our schools must take the initial step to offer food options that will make adolescents more likely to choose healthy foods and develop healthy eating habits.

Offering only salad and sandwiches alongside chili dogs, chalupas and pizza is not an effective way to form healthy eating habits. A 16-year old will probably choose a slice of pizza over a salad. That's why our schools need to make the choice easier. By replacing some of the current options with foods like rice or vegetables, students will have more healthy options to choose from and therefore will more likely pick a healthier meal.

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