Fighting Junk Food from a Very Young Age

Students leave a primary school as the government announced the closure of education institutions over the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Phnom Penh on March 14, 2020. Photo: AFP

Near public schools, stands where children can stock up on filthy sweet and salty greasy junk food sold at low prices abound. The authorities at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport say they are going after these items so tempting for children and available near schools, but those items are still there. Beside the fact that they have no nutritional value, these products lead to addiction to salty or sweet that will be harmful to the health of these future adults.     

Sold at low prices, those industrial products filled with artificial colorings and preservatives are designed for the market of public-school children from families with modest means. Since they don’t have much money, they stuff themselves with this junk food that will affect their health when they reach adulthood, leading them to get poorer as they try to get treated. All this for the greater benefit of food sector manufacturers who know perfectly well the harmful effects of the products they distribute near schools.    

This phenomenon is not only found in Cambodia. In numerous more developed countries, people will less money have to eat manufactured food products sold at low costs and that have low nutritional value, being full of sugar and fat harmful to one’s health.    

Here, however, in order to get treated, low-revenue households don’t have health insurance to get access to quality medical care.  

Of course, one could conduct education campaigns on nutrition in schools meant to reach parents in order to explain to them what is good for health and what is not. And of course, one could attempt to convince sellers near schools not to offer those damaging products, or even chase those sellers away. But since this is all these children can buy since they cannot afford quality treats or something better to alleviate their hunger, nothing will help.

And yet, the country is filled with products—fruit, plants, and so on—that could contribute to producing something that would satisfy children’s taste buds while giving them what they need—nutrients, vitamins, proteins, and so on—so they can grow and be healthy. 

Beyond declarations of intent regarding fighting malnutrition, couldn’t we envision heavily taxing those snacks, potato chips and other murderous sweets, and then using the money collected through these taxes to support in the country the production of substitute products that would not damage children’s health and would be affordable for even those with the least money.  

We could then hope to rid students’ path to school of those tempting food items that are sweet, salty, and…poisonous.    


Related Articles