Students will seek junk food

When I was in high school, a 250ml carton of milk could be bought for $0.20 in the school cafeteria ($0.25 out of the vending machine), thanks to heavy government subsidies. Soft drinks, candy bars and other junk food were also freely available, for a price.

Last week, the Quebec government announced that they would no longer allow junk food to be sold in public schools, in an effort to get kids to be healthier. It’s a sensible move: if you want kids to eat better, don’t dangle sweets in front of their faces.

This morning, La Presse reports that a special STM shuttle bus is being used to take kids to and from Mount Royal High School to the Plaza Côte-des-Neiges mall during lunch – ostensibly because they want to gorge on high-calorie foods. And the Marguerite-Bourgeois school board is trying to get them to stop.

The STM’s response is simple: They’re there to provide transit service to paying customers, not to second-guess their motives. “School extras”, the extra student-only shuttles that usually start mid-route at the school to take students home, aren’t there because the STM wants to be nice. They’re there to avoid dozens or even hundreds of students suddenly trying to get on the same bus after the bell rings.

Quebec’s junk food plan will help a bit, if only morally, to help control junk food intake. But students will go out to get what they want, even if that means they’ll have to take a bus to get there.

Expect a lot of weekday-only fast-food restaurants to start opening up near schools as a result of this policy.

UPDATE: Le professeur masqué has some thoughts on this issue as well. Another blogger asks if we’ve all gone crazy.

UPDATE (Sept. 26): The STM caves, vowing to only run shuttles to bring students back to school, a compromise about as stupid as the entire controversy.

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