Since the start of the school year, the Stuyvesant Administration has focused an unnecessary amount of energy and resources on cracking down on marijuana abuse in and around the school building. Students found smoking in the bathrooms, on the bridge stairs, or around the alcove have had their ID cards confiscated and the police have even come to the school to search or interrogate suspected smokers. In wasting time to deal with the marijuana madness, the administration has allowed another serious health threat to endanger the lives and minds of students: fast food. Fast food poses a greater threat to the health of the student body than does smoking weed, and the school must take steps to address this issue.
In the cafeteria and at nearby lunch hotspots, such as Terry’s, McDonald’s, and Subway, fat-filled foods like pizza, French fries, and tuna melts are some of the cheapest options available to a student with a small allowance. Two-or-three-dollar pizza bagels are consumed in extreme quantities while the seven-dollar salads are rarely chosen from the menu. At Subway, a 6-inch veggie-patty sub is more expensive than is a foot-long 1140-calorie Chicken & Bacon Ranch sandwich.
Though the lunch room took a small step forward when it took “dollar fries” off the menu, it still has a long way to go in combating fast food. Now the available “dollar lunch” choices are limited to a slice of pizza and fried chicken. For those who are willing to pay the full $1.50 for a cafeteria lunch, there is an optional fruit stand at the end of the lunch line. Piled on the stand are bag-sealed, dry, browning apple slices with a long past expiration date, which seem about as healthy as the rest. Though this is a start, Stuyvesant has clearly only scratched the surface of this pernicious health issue.
Just two blocks away, students frequent another cheap high-fat establishment; McDonald’s, the godfather of the fast-food empire, appeals to its student consumers with uniformly cheap prices and calorically overwhelming menu items, such as the Big Mac, McFlurry, and McGriddle. Each one contain over 25 grams of fat per serving. These cut-rate concoctions, as well as those on the renowned Dollar Menu, show clearly why fast food makes an offer that is hard to refuse.
It’s like a twisted MasterCard ad. Deep-fried onion rings? $1. A pizza bagel? $1.99. And a fruit salad? $5.50. But shouldn’t a healthy future be priceless? With only a small incentive to purchase more expensive, albeit healthier meals, the obesity rate among young adults is bound to skyrocket.
If Stuyvesant wants to curtail unhealthy habits among its students, it should first focus on healthier breakfast and lunch options instead of simply removing options that are most obviously harmful. By offering advantage cards that provide discounts for foods that are low in fat and high in nutritional value, the administration would give students a cheap alternative to the artery-clogging foods that are the staples of our favorite lunch locales. Another approach is for the Department of Education to change the cafeteria’s offerings themselves. Instead of continuing with French fry cuts, it may be more beneficial to student health to make the nutitional options more appealing with a new cafeteria layout and fresher foods. Whatever the method, it is obvious that something must be done.
Just by instituting a few of these healthy changes, the Department of Education can wedge a noticeable thorn into the side of students’ fast food consumption. Otherwise, they run the risk of allowing students to develop life threatening health issues that no amount of saved lunch money can cure.