Campus Life

Squid vs. Whale

Treasuring Junk Food

I was browsing through The New York Times at lunch last week when I ran into this article: “Effort to Limit Junk Food in Schools Faces Hurdles.” Apparently with kids getting fatter, our government felt forced to ask the question, “Are our children eating too much junk food?” And with the answer being a resounding “Yes,” they’re thinking of banning junk food from schools.

Now I understand where the government’s coming from on this one. If our children are too fat, they’re going to get left behind in gym class, and we clearly can’t leave any child behind. But at the same time, really? Really? You can’t take away junk food from small children! It’s an essential part of growing up. Where would we be as a society without junk food?

As kids, we learned so many life lessons from eating junk food. Handi Snacks and Dunkaroos taught us the importance of not over dipping, a lesson that translated so well to the salsa bowls of cocktail parties later in life. We learned the joy of instant gratification from shoving the entire Fruit Roll Up into our mouths at once. And on the flip side, we learned about bitter disappointment from the over-hyped introduction of the great white Gummi Shark. We learned from Mr. Freezie that red, orange, purple, and green are indeed flavors.

And let us not forget the most influential junk food of them all. Without pop rocks and soda, we would never have learned about double dog dares, chemical reactions, and the fact that liquid can come out of your nose. (OK fine, milk played a part in teaching that last point as well.)

But now the government wants to get rid of junk food, and at the rate they’re banning fun things (M80s, junk food, toy guns, Aqua Dots, lawn darts), I won’t have anything left in common with my grandkids. From their plastic safety bubbles, they’ll think granddad spent his childhood as some sort of reckless hick who was always busy trying to get himself killed. Granted I thought that about my grandfather, but that’s only cause he was always busy trying to get himself into wars and stuff.

The thing that really gets me is that junk food isn’t really all that responsible for the rising rates of childhood obesity. Think about it. If junk food in schools is really responsible for kids getting fatter, how do you explain the last 50 years when kids ate junk food all the time and didn’t get fat? When we were kids, everything we ate was full of sugar and fat. That’s what kids do. They load up on sugar and fat, run around like manic little munchkins, and then pass out on mats (oh nap time, how I miss you).

What’s missing is the whole running around like manic munchkins part. That’s what’s causing kids these days to pile on the pounds. Kids exist in a delicate equilibrium of sugar intake and hyperactivity. Usually one leads to another, but now it seems that the sugar goes in and the kids don’t spaz out. I just don’t get it.

I don’t want to sound like a cantankerous old coot, but kids these days! Way back in the 1990s when I was a youngster, all I ever wanted to do was run around and make forts in the woods. What’s keeping kids from doing that these days? Is it the constant medication and video games?

I liked video games and all, but they were never so fun that I’d pass up a day outside. I mean sure, rainy days were dedicated to Mario, but that was about it. Maybe it’s just that video games are so much better these days. Is it possible that video games have surpassed real life in terms of entertainment value?

Now that I think about it, I do have an MIT friend who’d rather play old video games than go outside. If old video games are more fun than MIT, maybe new video games are more fun than real life. If that’s the case, in order to save junk food, we have to find a way to turn playing video games into exercise.

Isn’t playing the Wii a complete workout? Well that’s got to be the solution to all of America’s problems. I’m thinking two hours of mandatory Wii Sports for school PE. Kids will almost certainly want to play a pseudo physical version of a sport rather than the real thing. Why just the other day, I saw a pair of MIT students playing Wii air hockey when a real air hockey table was right behind them.

Plus I’m sure the government will love it. Once they’ve gotten rid of junk food, they can use the Wii to begin their assault on contact sports. They can get rid of all those dangerous liability ridden sports and replace them with their Wii versions. Nothing says non-contact like Wii Dodge Ball.

You’re still getting picked last though.