A person’s health is a necessary component of happiness and longevity, and its foundation lies in childhood. Therefore, children should be encouraged to develop good habits as early as possible. One of the critical contributors to lasting mental and physical fitness is proper nutrition. While parents can easily control what their children ingest during the early years of development, it becomes harder when the child enters a school and is responsible for their meals. Fast food companies take advantage of this fact by placing their outlets near educational institutions. Young people’s psyche is not yet fully formed, so they are suggestible to aggressive advertising. Therefore, fast food restaurants near schools should be banned because the meals they offer are addictive and can lead to health problems and unnecessary expenses.
The Addictive Nature of Fast Food
First and foremost, fast food availability near schools makes it easier for students to buy it, and eating such meals is addictive. The fact that there is an establishment that provides unhealthy, cheap, but desirable dishes in the vicinity of children suggests that they will become patrons. Laxer and Janssen (2014) comment that fast-food restaurants near schools increase the possibility that the student will consume from these places. Moreover, the fact that young people are eating junk food suggests that they are no longer getting proper nutrition from school meals. After a while, a pattern starts to emerge: children begin to crave more fast food.
The availability of such restaurants makes it easier for students to abandon healthy nutrition in favor of mass-produced empty calories. Research states, “Overall, our patterns are consistent with the idea that fast food near schools affects the student’s eating habits, weight, and leads to obesity, this was concluded in a report in the American Journal of Public Health as well” (“Fast Food Near Schools,” 2009, p. 44). Therefore, the availability of junk food in the vicinity of schools alone is enough for students to start developing unhealthy habits.
Furthermore, the desire to eat more fast food goes beyond a craving, with some even calling it an addiction. Children are especially vulnerable to the marketing tactics used by large companies to promote their products. For them, eating fast food may lead to serious negative lifestyle changes. Balaji et al. (2015) define “fast food addiction” as an inability to reduce the amount one intakes from fast-food restaurants due to uncontrollable cravings. Hence, not only do children receive low-quality nutrition, but they also consume significantly more than recommended.
What might be an occasional indulgence to an adult is dangerous to children. Kowshihan et al. (2019) observe that people often eat in fast-food restaurants because the fare is delicious and flavourful. Such patterns of behavior may lead to addiction, which has a significant negative effect on the human body. “Fast food is unhealthy because it contains 1400 kcal, 85% of recommended daily fat intake, 73% of recommended saturated fat, but only 40% of recommended fiber and 30% of recommended calcium” (Balaji et al., 2015, p. 65). Concerned adults should carefully control what their children eat to avoid the development of addiction, but fast-food restaurants near schools make this task difficult.
Fast Food and Health Risks
Fast food availability near schools makes it easier for students to buy meals the consumption of which can lead to health problems. For instance, eating fast food may lead to heart-related diseases. The findings of Reuter et al. (2019) establish that junk food causes obesity, which is a great contributor to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Thus, such issues extend much further than the expected digestive and weight management concerns.
Doctors often mark high blood pressure as one of the consequences of eating unhealthily. Healey (2012) indicates that fast food increases the risk of high blood pressure, mainly due to the amounts of sodium chloride it contains. Therefore, young children who indulge in unhealthy meals will have significantly elevated chances of suffering from severe cardiovascular disease as adults, decreasing their quality of life.
Researchers see improper nutrition as the cause of many digestive problems. Healey (2012) explains that franchise restaurants often use food additives, either to prolong shelf life or achieve improved color, flavor, or texture. Thus, many of the health consequences related to eating fast food are apparent immediately.
While such enhancements may make the products more attractive, they also pose a health threat. Moreover, Healey (2012) points out that some people are sensitive to additives, so they may suffer from allergic reactions, diarrhea, and other unpleasant consequences. Fast-food restaurants near schools increase the chances of children indulging in these products despite the immediate adverse effects.
Certain health issues associated with fast food are especially dangerous for teenagers. In their article, Mahmood et al. (2018) report that junk food consumption leads to obesity and respiratory problems such as asthma and difficulty breathing, which may limit the movement of a person. Adolescents develop fast and need to participate in sports and related activities to become healthy adults.
Further, improper nutrition causes skin problems, which teenagers already suffer from due to the hormonal changes in their bodies. Consuming fast food increases the risk of eczema, itchy skin, acne, and other skin complications (Mahmood et al., 2018). Young people should avoid fast food during puberty, which becomes harder when restaurants are close to schools.
Some of the health threats posed by junk food are psychological rather than physical. A study by Bacchini et al. (2015) verifies that fast-food restaurants near educational institutions contribute directly to obesity. Gonsalves et al. (2013) state that the high amount of fats in the meals may cause problems with excessive weight, subjecting children in middle and high school to public ridicule. Imperfect body shape and related issues make the affected students victims of bullying.
By that logic, fast food restaurants near schools increase the risk of young people taking their own lives. Jacob et al. (2020) estimate that there is a positive correlation between junk food consumption and suicide attempts in many countries around the world due to self-insecurity, depression, and the high risk of being bullied. Thus, fast food restaurants near schools are dangerous to the well-being of students, both physically and psychologically.
The Expenses Associated with Fast Food Consumption
While children should not be responsible for their financial well-being, fast food restaurants near schools lead to unnecessary expenses for the parents. Healey (2012) estimates that on average Australians dedicate around a third of their food budget to restaurant meals and fast food. This money would be better spent more on fresh vegetables and other nutrient-rich meals.
Nations now make efforts to reduce the consumption of junk food through taxation, increasing the costs. Many countries now tax consumers who buy certain food and drinks as part of a government effort to curb unhealthy nutrition (Carter et al., 2019). Thus, not only are quick-service restaurants unhealthy, but they are also becoming intentionally more expensive.
In the long-term, fast food restaurants near schools increase the expenses on health care services. Carter et al. (2019) emphasize that the money spent on treating nutrition-related medical issues could be saved if the person was more careful about their lifestyle choices. Thus, avoiding junk food restaurants contributes to the future financial security of young people.
Possible Advantages of Fast Food Restaurants
Despite their negative qualities, fast-food restaurants remain popular because they are affordable and efficient. Balaji et al. (2015) claim such establishments have a positive side since they are less time-consuming and cheap. These qualities may attract busy students from low-income families. Nevertheless, Healey (2012) emphasizes that long-term consumption of junk food in large amounts leads to more money spent. While fast-food restaurants may seem like a more comfortable option, they do not benefit their customers overall.
Another possible benefit of fast-food restaurants near schools is that they provide a variety of food choices and a sitting area to eat in. Arguably, they are an excellent place for children and teens to meet, have conversations, and create social connections. Balaji et al. (2015) state that eating establishments inspire community building and friendship. Moreover, fast food restaurants expose young people to a variety of food items from around the world, allowing them to sample different cuisines at affordable rates.
However, the versions of international dishes served in such places are usually unhealthy due to the low amount of nutrients and the high number of calories they contain (Balaji et al., 2015). The cultural benefits of fast-food restaurants prove that these places are worth visiting occasionally, but they should not become a part of the children’s regular routines. Placing these eating establishments near schools will facilitate the development of habitual junk food consumption instead of positioning such meals as a rare indulgence.
Additionally, some people argue that placing quick service restaurants near schools helps control the hunger issues students and teachers may experience. Balaji et al. (2015) observe that fast food restaurants provide ready-made meals, which are great after a tiring day of work. After all, studying requires considerable brainpower, and growing children need regular nutrition to keep them active and alert.
Although it is correct, it is not a great reason since the problem of hunger among students and staff is an argument in favor of improving school cafeteria fare or even making lunches free for children from low-income families. Regularly eating junk food may lead to an uncontrollable craving called “fast food addiction” (Balaji et al., 2015). People who regularly consume well-balanced meals in their places of work and study will not have to rely on fast-food restaurants.
Fast food restaurants near schools are addictive and threaten students’ physical, mental, and financial well-being. Children are vulnerable to aggressive marketing and crave such meals due to the additives that change the texture and taste of food. Moreover, researchers link junk food to a variety of adverse health consequences. Not only is fast food an unnecessary expense, but it may also necessitate increased spending on health care services in the future. While quick-service restaurants provide a variety of tasty meals in an efficient manner, they should not become a part of children’s routines. Therefore, they should be banned from the vicinity of schools.
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