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Big Mother Is Watching 533

theodp writes "Newsweek reports that high-schoolers are being denied the joy of ordering unhealthy lunches thanks to their schools' adoption of services like MealpayPlus. New web-based services allow moms to prepay for cafeteria food, specify what their kid can and can't buy, and go online to track his purchases." From the article: "If the child tries to buy a prohibited item, an alert flashes on the cashier's computer. Of course, the system isn't foolproof. According to a KRC Research survey, 73 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds are throwing out part of their lunches at least once a week; 36 percent are trading them." All I ever got was PB&J.
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Big Mother Is Watching

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  • by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:35AM (#15815470) Journal

    "The more you tighten your grip on the galaxy, the more star systems will slip through your fingers!"

    I realize that is not the original text of the quote, but I revised it for clarity. Also, before you mod me offtopic, how many of you won't admit that your parents were like the evil empire? I know mine were.

  • by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:50AM (#15815530)
    As long as the kids live at home, the parents should have a say in what the kids eat, what they wear and so on.

    In the words of the Great Sage, Chris Rock, "Just because you can do something don't mean it's meant to be done."

    The majority of fighting and angst by teenagers is definitely caused by their parents, who go batshit crazy trying to prevent... fighting and angst.

    If there's no good reason to monitor what your kid eats (like they are both diabetic and completely devoid of self-control), parents need to chill the fuck out.
  • The solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:57AM (#15815555)
    The solution is for schools to serve only health food as determined by a qualified nutritionist. However, states, or better yet, the federal government, needs to throw more money at making school lunches healthier. In fact, why not make it so school lunches are 100% free, limit one per student per day, if all the food there is healthy.

    As for soda in schools, charge more (like $1 to $1.25 per 12 oz can). Plus, the caffeine can be beneficial in my opinion.
  • Good for kids? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nbannerman ( 974715 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @03:57AM (#15815556)
    Y'know, some of these kind of practices produce some surprising results in the real world. Whilst you or I probably look on slightly bemused, this kind of behaviour in schools can produce some interesting quirks.

    Here in the UK, there has been a similar kind of healthy food drive. Although parents are not given the levels of oversight seen here, fast food and vending machines are quickly becoming dirty words.

    However, in some cases children are fighting back in rather funny ways. In one school (I'd find the link if I wasn't late for work!) a group of children started buying snacks, cans of fizzy drink and chocolate from a local wholesaler, and then sold them on to children during break time and lunch.

    Expect to see something similar happen here; and make a note of the kids that start doing it, because they might just be the kind of people we see doing well in the business world in a few years time. Of course, it'll cause this prepay system to fall apart and be branded a failure as well, which is probably no bad thing.
  • Re:Good for kids? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nbannerman ( 974715 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:00AM (#15815562)
    Well, that wasn't too tough and I guess work can wait a bit longer; BBC News article [] discussing the new black market in schools in the UK. I found it quite interesting, hope someone else does as well.
  • Italian way! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cavallo71 ( 144715 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:01AM (#15815567)
    We had NO junk food in italy at school
    up to university (included).

    It really was cheap and healty way to feed kids:
    they gave you simple food that was properly cooked.

    I live in uk and I've been in the States and now
    I'm more than proud of this way.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:11AM (#15815603) Homepage
    Isn't it amusing, the parents shouldn't control what their own children eat but corporations are allowed to use mass marketing in every waking moment of a childs life, as well as addictive junk additives in the 'food', to get the children to eat what most of the directors of the junk food companies would not eat themselves or allow their own children to eat. For those who don't think those junk additives are addictive, consider the efforts parents have to go to stop the children eating the crap, hell, a new successful company exists because of it.
  • I *am* a parent... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slippyblade ( 962288 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:18AM (#15815626) Homepage
    And am whole-heartedly offended by a lot of these comments. This program is yet another level of abstraction between parenting and the children.

    I have raised my kids, taught them right from wrong. I am also smart enough to realize that my kids are not idiots. They are not stupid and will find ways around things they don't understand or agree with... Just like I did as a child. When that happens, all you can do as a parent is hope you instilled the proper morals into the child.

    I'm sorry, it is NOT up to the lunch lady to determine what my kids eat. If I am that concerned about what my children eat at school, I'll make it myself! At one school they attended, this is exactly what I did. "Some parents don't have time for that!", you might say... Bullshit. If you have the time to screw around and have kids, you MAKE THE DAMN TIME to raise them. It's called parenting.

    This shit ranks right up there with Net-Nanny type things. If you mistrust your children to these kinds of extents, then you have failed as a parent and nothing can fix this. More and more the definition of "children" is getting pushed further up the age curve. This lunch program is in High-Schools for crying out loud. Kids who have their driver's licenses and are nearly the age of majority, yet they can't pick their own lunches? Um, yeah. That makes sense.

    I could rant on, but I'm tired. Night.
  • by Eivind ( 15695 ) <> on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:19AM (#15815630) Homepage
    I agree with your problem-description, though not with the solution.

    True. Obesity is a serious health-problem. Quite likely the combination of overweigth and too little physical exersize is the number one health-problem facing America today (and the next generation even more).

    Thing is, I do not think you can teach someone to eat healthy and exersize enough by behaving like a control-freak. Kids can and will rebel against such, and even if you *do* manage to force your 12-year old to do as you demand, you'll likely only end up who hates eating healthy and takes every chance he/she gets to eat hamburgers.

    People don't generally fall in love with stuff they are literally force-fed.

    Want your kid to like healthy food ?

    • Eat varied healthy foods yourself at home.
    • Cook. Let your child help cooking. The finished stuff you buy is generally less healthy than what you can easily make yourself. It's perfectly possible to make a very tasty lasagne with half the fat and double the veggies from the stuff you get in the shop.
    • Stay in the real world. Nobody is supposed to live on pure springwater, carrots and spinach.
    • Don't force-feed your kid veggies or whatever. Serve varied good foods and let the kid discover for himself that a lot of this stuff is excellent.

    Want your kid to enjoy using his/her body ?

    • Play soccer with him/her.
    • Bring a frisbee to the beach.
    • Go swimming.
    • Take her/him fishing.
    • Go rock-climbing.

    Exersizing for the sake of exersizing tends to be mindnumbingly boring. I used to be a leader in the scouts however, and I've lost count of the kids that would claim they hate sports and sports are boring, only to have the day of their life participating in, for example;

    • Building a bridge over a river from 2 ropes. Cross repeatedly.
    • White-water rafting.
    • Rappelling
    • Catching and returning sheep to where they belong.
    • Building and operating a pedal-driven dishwashing-machine from parts of an old one, plus broken biycles etc
    • Running around like a madman literally *all* fucking day dressed up as a knigth, shooting authenthic middle-age bows, practicing sword-figthing, hauling rocks with the best of them for firing the ballista.
    • digging for hours in a snow-drift to make a snow-cave suitable for sleeping overnigth.
    • Kite-surfing on ski. Windsurfing in summer. Snorkeling.

    I could literally add 100s of items to this list with no problem whatsoever. No, not all kids will enjoy all activities. So what ? But you'll have a *really* hard time finding a kid that enjoys none of this.

    And you'll have acomplished *much* more than by forcing the kid to do some kind of exersize for the sake of exersize.

    No kid will cherish spending another hour at the treadmill for the sake of it. (yeah yeah, I know I'm exxagerating, most parents aren't *that* bad) Most kids I know will *love* the idea of trying to conquer the surf at the beach using a inflatable rubber-boat, and see if daddy flips over more than 11 times this year. (his previous record)

  • by LilGuy ( 150110 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:20AM (#15815637)
    Kids have to be able to make mistakes with their health. Many kids experiment with drugs in high school, but yet they're not considered 'mature' enough to decide what they want to eat? What happens when they grow older and have never made any decisions for themselves? Those are the kids that live with mom and dad until they're 30, or until their parents throw them out of the house. Raising kids is tough, but if you honestly need to control a high-schooler's diet, you definitely need a little help in the parenting department.
  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <> on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:38AM (#15815689) Homepage

    Someone had to work and pay taxes for that "free lunch". Contrary to what your local Socialist Indoctrinator says, it just didn't spring out from a magical "lunch machine".

    Indeed, about a third of my pay goes to taxes and other similar fees. I'm quite happy about it, as the money is mostly used for sensible spendings. How many medical procedures have you had for free? Education? Real social security?

    Yes the system has flaws, and no it's not free as in magically free. But it is parctially free, for the one using the services. It's a matter of opinion if it makes sense to take from those who have and give to those who need, but I'm not complaining as long as I find I can use the services paid for with my tax money when I am in a time of need.
  • by Marsmensch ( 870400 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @04:47AM (#15815708)

    I couldn't agree with you more

    It's also worth pointing out that in a system of socialized or largely socialized healthcare, in a democratic and transparent state (like you have in the scandinavian countries), the state has an incentive in promoting a healthy lifestyle for its citizens, and they have a stake in keeping the healthcare system from bein overburdened. It isn't surprising, then, that the most agressive anti-tobacco campaigns in Europe were launched in Sweden before being imitated by other governments.

    Of course, many libertarians will tell you that you have a right to pay for you own unhealthy behavior, which is true to a point, but if they believe your health exists entirely in a vacuum without affecting anybody else, they have no understanding of how social costs are... well... social.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:28AM (#15816336)

    So teach them the lessons, and use the system restrictions as a secondary precaution.

    This is better than having school cafaterias not offer food deemed "unhealthy" at all, then no parents could allow their kids to have the food some parents deem not healthy enough.

    Now the parents can potentially have some control of what food they are buying for their kid, and the person the child has to ask for permission to get certain food is their parents. More likely than not, the kid will be able to convince them to allow the food they want, given time.

    Being able to pick foods the kid likes may be a privilege granted for good behavior -- extreme misbehavior might result in the parent taking away the kid's dessert or their favorite meal item, or disallowing everything except brussel sprouts, rice, mystery meat, and milk.

    In other words, a system like this is pure leverage for the parent.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:36AM (#15816376)

    Kids don't have the ability to make decisions for themselves -- they have undeveloped capacity for judgement and are thus highly susceptible suggestion.

    Why else would minors not be allowed to enter into a contract or buy a house, assuming a friend decided to give them the money?

    Because lack of education and judgement capacity results in children being more susceptible to all sorts of suggestion and manipulation than adults; kids can be capricious and arbitrary about what courses of action they take, what suggestions they follow, and their parents may be able to do fairly little about it.

  • by Chrisje ( 471362 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:58AM (#15816491)
    Now I just spent six years in Sweden, and on occasion I visited a schools and ate with kids. I don't know what it's like in Finland, but the socialistic system has its share of problems too. The average budget for a school meal in Sweden is about 6-9 crowns I believe. In US dollars I would guess a buck to a buck fifty. This is no money whatsoever. By comparison the average budget for a prisoners' meal is 25 crowns (do the math).

    This causes the food at schools to be OK at best. I say OK because usually it includes some carbs, some veggies, and some (albeit often processed) meat or fish. Nothing fancy, but not *overly healthy* either. It's not like they're serving sushi or grilled chicken breast with a nice large salad, a vinaigrette and a cascade of fresh fruits every day if you catch my drift.

    Then in Sweden some municipalities' inhabitants are richer, more conscious about these things and more educated, so they wouldn't mind supplementing the budget to give kids better food. This in turn causes the wrath of the Socialists because socialism sometimes dictates that "if the worker can't be healthy, neither can you, you rich scumbag!". So that option is out the door too, and you are stuck with mediocre free school lunches. See the issue?

    In the UK these free, processed school meals are causing more damage than doing good. The naked chef, a British TV-cook, went on a crusade in England and Scotland to make food healthier. I was shocked to see a whole bunch of 9 year olds that didn't know the difference between a leek and a carrot. Not to mention the fact that their mothers didn't think you could *eat* basil because it was, like, you know, *green*, dude!

    Being thin/healthy will become a matter of money in most Western countries. Those demographic groups that have access to money and education will engage their kids in sports and feed them food made of real fresh ingredients, while coal-miners' daughters will be eating mashed potatoes, gravy and deep-fried chicken(ahem!) fingers for the rest of their short, fat, natural lives while working in a chip-shop or flipping burgers.

    One thing I would propose to counter some of this effect is somewhat socialistic in nature. Drop all VAT on healthy foods such as veggies, fruits, fresh (not salted and roasted) nuts and fish, and raise taxes on junk sky-high. Many lower middle class to poorer families will think twice if a Big Mac will cost them 20 bucks a pop while a salad goes for fifty cents, no matter how hard the kids scream.

    The reason this will not happen is that Coca-Cola Co and their grubby friends probably own congress in more countries than we care to admit. "Business interests" are more important than people's health, and such is the way of the world.
  • by GospelHead821 ( 466923 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:59AM (#15816502)
    It partly is the fault of the food that they serve in high school. I don't remember the exact prices, but the ratios were close to these... To get a grilled chicken sandwich, possibly the healthiest entree available in the ala-carte line, it cost $1.20; a hamburger or a cheeseburger was $1.00. To get a carton of french fries, it cost $0.60, and an ice cream bar was $0.50. A serving of vegetables was something ridiculous (to us), like $1.50. How many kids going through the ala carte line ever got the vegetables? None! The prices were skewed so that if you wanted to get more food, the best "value" was french fries and ice cream. In retrospect, sure, a chicken sandwich and vegetables would have been better for me, but then I would have had to explain to my parents why I needed $3.00 for lunch instead of just $2.00. I always lamented that they charged peanuts for the unhealthy crap, but charged a premium for the healthy food. Sure, that's the way it is in real life, but they're already subsidizing the meal! Why not charge more for the unhealthy food and make it easier for kids to get something good for lunch?
  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:00AM (#15816504) Journal
    you could put in a block in your paycard to prevent yourself from

    Well now, thats different.

    Anyways, I think this is a good idea provided that the parents understand this isn't a magic bullet. It allows the parents to extend their control over their children while they're in the care of the school without forcing the entire school to submit to the few loudmouthed parents at the PTA meetings.

    Now if only parents could go online and decide whether little Timmy or Tammy will learn about creationism or evolution that day...

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.