The old chocolate milk dispenser and sugary drinks remain a legend among ESD students. From a poll of 86 students taken on Dec. 5, 74 percent of students prefer the chocolate milk dispenser over the cartons, and 80 percent of students want the dispenser to return to the dining commons. Similar attitudes are expressed towards the sugary drinks that are no longer available in the cafeteria.
The chocolate milk dispenser in the cafeteria should make a comeback; it is beloved among the ESD student body and better for the environment. The sugary drinks must also return, because forbidding sugar increases temptation and can cause eating disorders. Most importantly, students can be trusted to make healthy decisions even in the presence of sugary drinks.
The chocolate milk machine was one of the many losses of Covid-19, removed to limit multi touch surfaces. But Covid-19 concerns are no longer relevant excuses to restrict the drink machines. With the water, tea and lemonade dispensers, ESD currently embraces a similar risk.
While Covid-19 concerns are no longer as predominant, new environmental concerns are. During the first semester of the 2022 school year, approximately 7,800 ESD chocolate milk cartons have ended up in landfills, with a predicted total of 18,000 by May 2023. But this is merely a choice. Other schools have transitioned from cartons to dispensers, such as Bluestone Elementary School in Harrisburg, Virginia. Originally, Bluestone discarded 39,000 cartons each year, and on average, students only consumed 70 percent of each carton. The combined carton and milk waste was combated by the addition of a dispenser. Students can now decide their desired amount of milk, and use reusable cups to drink the milk. Unfortunately, ESD has backtracked in their waste reduction efforts.
The drinks machine machine was another school lunch loss. It dispensed a blue raspberry flavored drink, limeade and black cherry drink options; it was removed in 2018 to make room for “fresher” options in the cafeteria, but its absence invites other issues.
The removal of the sugary drinks machine in school settings creates temptation. Coined as the “forbidden fruit theory,” banning an object of desire only increases desire, according to the New York Times Upfront. This can be the case with sugary beverages, potentially leading to increased consumption in high school students outside of school hours.
Instead of banning items, J. Justin Wilson, the senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom, recommends health and physical education in schools. This approach teaches students to make healthy choices, opposed to making arbitrary boundaries. And, ESD requires both health class and fitness credits. Students are prepared to make independent decisions for their lunchtime drinks.
Marlene B. Schwartz, Ph.D., and Kathryn E. Henderson, Ph.D., published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescence Psychiatry the link between obesity prevention and eating disorders in middle and high schools. With the removal of sugary drinks or unhealthy treats from school environments, professionals worry that students will develop a worsening body image or obsession with dieting. Schwartz performed a study at a middle school by placing restrictions on “unhealthy snacks,” only to observe an increasing desire to lose weight or diet in the young teens.
But, many still argue that the high sugar content of such beverages outweighs psychological concerns. Director of Sports Performance, Phil Mosley, acknowledges the risk of sugary drinks for one’s health, with too much leading to body fat or high blood sugar.
While these concerns are valid, they must be viewed within a greater context. High school students are independent and responsible; they can assess the risk of sugary drinks and manage their health accordingly.
SAGE is not inherently opposed to sweet treats and sugary drinks either. They support the “all foods fit” motto, stressing that less nutritious items can be incorporated into a well-balanced diet, with a prime example being the offered chocolate milk.
With this mindset, a sugary drink machine would fit perfectly into the cafeteria. After returning the chocolate milk dispenser and fountain drinks to the cafeteria, the SAGE drink options will be complete.