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Should Vending Machines Be Taken Out of Schools?

A scary number of American students are obese or overweight, and it’s easy to think of reasons why. I have heard horror stories of kids who will only eat McDonald’s Happy Meals instead of healthy meals, and elementary schools that feed their students food that has the nutritional value of garbage.

However, something that we might not think of right off the top of our heads is the food that students buy for themselves from vending machines that are found in their school cafeterias. Now, the Obama administration is tackling this culprit in its fight to make children healthier. The administration plans to propose new rules concerning vending machines and the foods that are offered through these devices within the next several weeks. Although the exact rules have not been announced, many health advocates think that these rules will reduce the amounts of fat, salt, and sugar that foods and drinks sold in vending machines can contain.

Vending machines do a surprisingly large amount of business in schools. According to the National Academy of Sciences, more than $2 billion worth of sugary treats and sodas are sold in our nations schools through vending machines. So it makes sense that the industries that profit from these sales – such as candy and soda producers – would not want vending machines to be banned from schools.

Christopher Gindlesperger is the director of communications for the American Beverage Association. Gindlesperger says that companies in his industry, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have already taken steps to make the offerings in school vending machines healthier.

“Our members have voluntarily reduce the calories in drinks shipped to schools by 88 percent and stopped offering full-calorie soft drinks in school vending machines,” he said.

Many vending machines also now offer some healthier options for children, such as trail mixes and dried fruit. Unfortunately, these products are often placed beside unhealthy treats, like candy bars and cookies. A study conducted between 2006 and 2010 found that when students had the option between the healthy and unhealthy foods, snacking behavior did not change, which means kids were still choosing the unhealthy treats.

So what should schools do in order to help kids makes healthy choices? Should they just remove vending machines entirely? Although this seems a little drastic, it might not be a bad idea.

Roger Kipp is the food service director for the Norwood School District in Ohio. In 2010, Kipp took out the vending machines in his schools and replaces them with an area in the school cafeterias where kids could buy healthier snacks, such as fruit, yogurt, and wraps.

“It took a while, but it caught on,” said Kipp. “You have to give the kids time. You can’t replace 16-years of bad eating habits overnight.”

Via The New York Times

Obama Administration to Tackle School Vending Machines

vending machine stocked with candy and chipsWith childhood obesity reaching all-time highs, the government has tackled the school’s hot lunch, and is now after its next big culprit: The vending machines.

Since children receive 19 to 50 percent of their food while at school, the Obama Administration plans to set rules for what can and can’t be sold in the vending machine. These guidelines will likely be released in the next few weeks.

One in five children is overweight. Since statics such as this have tripled in the past 30 years, nutritionists say that vending machines, supplied with potato chips, cookies and soda, may contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Representatives from the food and beverage industries say that many of their snacks are healthy and should not be banned. They say they support vending snacks that are in good nutrition.

“But we are a little concerned that they might make the rules too stringent,” James A. McCarthy said, president of the Snack Food Association, a trade group in Washington.

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Schools Must Buy Larger Desks to Accommodate Larger Students

class room with desksSeventeen percent of American children are considered to be overweight or obese. Of course, this statistic in and of itself is disturbing, but the manifestations of this fact are also quite mind-boggling. For example, there was recently an advertising campaign in Georgia that targeted these overweight children. Now, many schools are having to make big changes in their classrooms in order to make sure these students are comfortable.

In many schools across the nation, bigger and stronger chairs and desks are being put into classrooms for the overweight children to use because they cannot fit in normal-sized school desks. Even in schools where this is not an immediate problem, it probably will become one in the future, and because of this, furniture manufacturers are increasing the standards size of their school desks in order to accommodate the growing students.

Taylor LeBaron was an overweight child who dealer with ridicule from his classmates about his weight. When he had trouble getting out of his desk, the situation just got worse.

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Take a Crash Course in Celiac Survival on a College Campus

bunch of grainShelby Kaho is a college sophomore and a professional blogger for She has also not eaten anything that contains gluten for the past six years. In case you are wondering why Shelby has given up cakes, breads, and other products that contain gluten, it is because she is a celiac, which means she has a gluten allergy/intolerance.

In order to raise awareness about living gluten-free, Shelby recently wrote a series of blogs for Her recent articles on this website have address concerns that celiac college students face, such as how to avoid eating gluten on their college’s campus.

Voicing Concerns Made Dining Safer for One Gluten-Free College Student.
In this article, Shelby shares her story of when she first moved to college and had to face a dangerous place for celiacs: the campus cafeteria. Shelby says that although her school promised to help her stay safe by providing foods that were gluten-free, the cafeteria workers were uneducated about what “gluten-free” really means and accidentally cross-contaminated her food with foods that contained gluten. Luckily for Shelby, her efforts and wiliness to work with the cafeteria staff and dining manager paid off and her dining hall is much safer for celiac diners. At the end of the article, Shelby offers advice for celiac students who are trying to fit in and feel included on their school’s campus.

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Elementary Students Need Physical Education, Even if the School’s Budget Doesn’t Cover It

elementary school gym classJessica Mazeau teaches physical education at Clifford School in Redwood City, California, five days a week. Her students are in kindergarten through fifth grade and a typical class includes activities such as keep-away with basketballs, hula hooping, and jumping rope. However, Mazeau does not work for the school or for the school district, nor is she a volunteer. Instead, she works for a private company, Rhythm and Moves, which was hired by the school’s parent-teacher organization, to provide physical education and activities for the students after the school’s budget cuts required it to eliminate its programs for students in all grades, except sixth through eighth.

“Clearly, if we don’t fund it the kids are not getting any active outside, except for minimum recess time and lunch time,” said Marilyn Ezrin, co-president of the Clifford School Parent-Teacher Organization.

Along with music education, physical education is becoming a luxury that schools simply cannot afford due to budget cuts and a hurting economy. However, with state requirements in California mandating that students receive 200 minutes of PE classes every 10 days, the responsibility to fulfill this requirement has fallen on classroom teachers.

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Birth Control Vending Machine Under Review by FDA

empty black vending machineForget the local drug store. Students at Shippensburg University can buy emergency contraceptive from an on-campus vending machine. The public university, secluded in the mountains of Cumberland Valley, Penn., traded out its chips and soda for Plan B, condoms, decongestants and pregnancy tests.

The university’s Etter Health Center started selling these items two years ago, and no one has taken notice until now. With the recent uproar over Planned Parenthood funding and religious disputes over access to birth control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided to take a closer look at the vending machine.

Tuesday, an official resigned from the The Susan G. Komen foundation over Planned Parenthood funding. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates disputed over the Obama administration’s recent decision to require church-affiliated employers to offer birth control.

Anyone 17 and older can purchase Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, without a prescription. Records show that all current students attending the school are at least that age. However, the FDA is contacting both state officials and the university to collect more facts, said FDA agency spokeswoman Stephanie Yao.

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Talking Vending Machines Teach Healthy Eating Habits

generic brand chips and candyWhat would vending machines say if they could talk? Would they tell us to quit punching their buttons so hard or to not shake them when they don’t dispense their goods properly? Well, to the surprise of some students at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, several of their vending machines have started talking and what they are saying is actually some pretty good advice.

“I’m a vending machine and can’t move without someone’s help,” one vending machine told a student when he tried to buy a Lava Cake. “Keep buying food like this and we’ll have that in common.”

Yep, the vending machines are offering the students tips on how to stay healthy by avoiding common vending machine foods, like greasy potato chips and fattening chocolate cakes.

The fake vending machines were installed in the school by Intermountain Healthcare in an effort to teach students about healthy eating habits. The vending machines are filled with pretend treats and do not accept money, but they talk whenever students press a button. According to Tamara Sheffield, a medical director with the company, the goal behind the machines is to get students to start thinking about what they are eating but in a lighthearted and entertaining way.

“What we want to do is do things that actually get kids’ attention,” Sheffield said. “If they have fun with it, they’re more likely to listen.”

In 2008, more than 80 percent of middle schools and high schools in Utah sold candy and other unhealthy snacks in their vending machines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this made Utah the state with the highest percentage of unhealthy vending machines in schools, out of the 40 states that were surveyed. By the next year, 15 school districts in the state had taken out vending machines from their elementary schools and 32 charter schools did not have any of the sweets-peddling machines.

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French Diet Guru Promotes Grade Inflation Based on Students’ BMIs

Author of the Dukan Diet

Dr. Pierre Dukan

Pierre Dukan is a diet guru from France who created The Dukan Diet, which many celebrities swear by. However, he is now moving on from his traditional audience – adults who want to lose weight by eating a diet that is very heavy in meat – to a new audience: high school students.

In his new book, which will be published on Thursday, January 5, 2012, Dukan makes a recommendation to the future president of France to institute a program that will encourage students to maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), which can be determined by comparing a person’s height and weight.  This seems like a good idea; students should learn about healthy lifestyle choices in order to become healthy adults. However, Dukan recommends giving the students higher grades if they have an acceptable BMI.

Wait a second, is he really suggesting grade inflation for students who are in shape? Evidently, the answer is yes.

“There is nothing wrong with educating children about nutrition,” Dukan said. “this will not change anything for those who do not need to lose weight. For the others, it will motivate them.” He claims that his new education plan is “a good way to sensitize teenagers to the need for a balanced diet.”

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The College De-Stress Handbook Help Students Keep Their Cool

Cover of "The College De-Stress Handbook: Keeping Cool Under Pressure from the Inside Out"By Brooke Randolph, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Stress management doesn’t seem to be so something that is taught formally, but I believe it is a life skill (like effective communication and parenting) that should be. Stress impacts us every day, and how we manage stressors makes a major impact on every area of life, including our health and ability to succeed. The first year of college would likely be the ideal time to teach stress management skills. While I don’t think stress management is likely to become a part of liberal arts curriculum, wise students can seek out the information for themselves from a variety of sources. One intended directly for college students is The College De-Stress Handbook: Keeping cool under pressure from the inside out.

The College De-Stress Handbook immediately notes that it is not just for the traditional student or freshman, but it is also intended for non-traditional students of all ages. The examples used prove that non-traditional students were considered throughout the development of this book. The writers’ use of humor makes it a fairly easy read, even as somewhat technical information about the impact of stress is explained. The focus seems to be slightly more on providing information than on teaching stress management techniques.

At the end of each chapter, there are questions to ponder that can help students make the information presented more personal. The techniques presented are not particularly difficult, so it is likely the majority of people could utilize this guide independently. The format would also lend itself for this book to be used as a part of a psychoeducational group. There does seem to be a bigger focus on cognitive-type techniques than on anything else. I prefer to start with a base of teaching physical relaxation and energy-building skills when teaching clients about stress management.

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Motivational Speaker Talks to College Students About Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Elaine Williams Headshot For many students, the first time they will drink alcohol or experiment with drugs is during college. For some, the first time leads to a second and a third and a fourth, and before they realize it, they are heading down the road to substance abuse and addiction. Of course, students hear about the dangers of this path all the time, but these messages can be easy to ignore. Unless the message is coming from Elaine Williams, a comedian and motivational speaker who has recently been touring college campuses across the nation to talk about substance abuse and addiction.

“There is so much shame, darkness and isolation in being an addict,” Williams said. “Laughter is the opposite of that. It also releases endorphins. So, I don’t preach, lecture, point my finger or scare the students. I tell my story and how I overcame the abuses, but I also empathize and listen to the students. I get what they’re going through. There’s a lot of pressure to perform, be liked and feel part of a group.”

It seems that Williams’ message is getting through to those who see her presentation as well.

“Elaine was real and really funny,” said Steven, a student at Southwest Tennessee Community College. “She had our attention the whole time. I can tell she really cares about the students.”

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