NEW YORK – Controlling kids has become a national priority for schools. Zero tolerance is the catch phrase for no lenience on students found with drugs, guns, and now candy and soft drinks.
School officials in Texas have laid down the law on sugary snacks, banning so-called junk food from school cafeterias.
"We are restricting access to empty calorie foods — things such as soft drinks, chewing gum, hard candy, spam candy such as cotton candy, things that we are pretty sure parents don't want their children eating for lunch in the first place," said Debbie Graves Ratcliffe of the Texas Education Agency.
Opponents of the ban say school administrators have gone too far with zero tolerance on snack foods, denying students their right to make dietary choices for themselves, and using youth to fight a bigger battle.
"This is all about controlling people, and the groups who are trying to control what we eat and what we drink, as well as many other factors in our lives, use kids as pawns," said John Doyle, co-founder of the Center for Consumer Freedom, which promotes choice in dining options.
"They are literally trying to usurp the role of parents — take away the authority of the most basic control — 'what should my children eat,'" he said.
In fact, school districts in 16 states are considering similar proposals. Some want to ban vending machines from school property. Schools in Texas that disagree with the ban could lose their school lunch subsidies if they permit "foods of minimal nutritional value."
Supporters argue that children eat too much food of little nutritional value and it is affecting their health. Since 1980, the number of overweight kids has doubled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared recently that obesity is a national problem.
It's a problem "not just for children but for all Americans. They are saying it's in epidemic proportions," Ratcliffe said.
But Doyle said that claim is inaccurate hype used to justify the action.
"The vast majority of Americans are not overweight. And the ones that are, they certainly don't need the government to intervene and tell them what to eat," he said.