By Madeleine Nordgren
Junk food, [noun] – pre-prepared or packaged food that has low nutritional value (Oxford languages dictionary). Junk food is served for lunch at schools to students who require healthy nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and healthy fats. Pre-made hamburgers, pizza, tacos, and nuggets are examples of junk food, and this is what we are serving our children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, the younger generation, and our future. In America, there are over 22 million children who rely on nutrition programs that give lunches for free or a reduced price in school, and this is where the majority of their nutrition intake comes from and they are served poor nutrient food. We as humans have a moral obligation to provide the future generation with the opportunity to choose a healthy lifestyle.
The low price is one of the main reasons for the popularity of junk food.The foods are pre-prepared and packaged in mass, meaning that they can be sold at a lower price. It has low nutritional value since the original nutrients from the raw products and ingredients are limited and low-quality at the end of production. In order for the foods to have a longer shelf life, different types of preservatives are added. Its quality is poor and the nutritional value is low, but it is a cheap alternative. The price of vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients containing a high nutritional value is often higher, and this has an effect on the choice of food for people living in poverty. In America, during 2020, there was a poverty rate of 9.2%, according to the Urban Institute, which is around 30.4 million people. If the tax was raised on junk food and lowered on good and healthy ingredients, it would provide an opportunity for a larger part of the population to afford to choose a more healthy option leading to a better lifestyle.
The lowered tax on nutritious ingredients would also have a positive global effect since more crops, fruits and vegetables will be needed since the demand is larger. This would benefit farmers all over the world but mostly the local farmers who can deliver their goods to the locals. Not only would it be an economical benefit and increase the GDP of the countries but also an environmental benefit since transportation costs will be reduced. Junk food is produced in large factories and shipped all across the world. Some foods are shipped around the world, for example to China, just to be packaged and then being shipped back to the US. If the tax was lowered on nutritious ingredients, the farmers would not need to ship their harvest around the world in order to finance their business. This would also be countered with a negative effect on the GDP since the demand for ingredients and technology used in junk food production will decrease resulting in fewer products being produced. It could be hard for a farmer that produces wheat and sells it to a sports bar factory to change their entire production. Although, when the demand for wheat is reduced in the sports bar factory, the remaining wheat from the farmer can be sold to factories producing bread, porridge, pasta, etc., or just as the grain itself in the grocery store.
Some may say that it is very convenient with fast food since it is easy to get hold of, at gas stores, at local shops, supermarkets, vending machines, etc. This is correct, junk food is easy to get hold of, but why is healthy food not as easy to get hold of when it is known that it provides more energy and contributes to a healthier lifestyle? This does not only apply to food but also to drinks, instead of selling energy drinks and sodas for cheap prices, why not sell freshly made juice at a lower consumer price, since the price for the product is the same but the tax is lowered. It may be because fresh and healthy foods decay a lot faster than junk food but if the vending machines are being emptied at the same speed as they are when it contains junk food, it will not be a problem. Another solution may be to have juice machines where you can pay for fresh juice, for example orange juice where it presses freshly made juice in front of your eyes.
We as humans have a moral obligation to take care of each other and make sure the future generation is provided all the opportunities that are possible. By raising the tax on junk food and lowering the tax on healthy food, we help people to make healthier choices not only for themselves but for the global society and for the future. Before this can be done, everyone should have knowledge and information about the detrimental effect of junk food. It should be taught in school how junk food is produced, what it consists of and the negative effects it has on the human body. The unconsciousness of the negative health effects may be the cause of why a percentage of people choose junk food. If it was common knowledge and people were well informed, it might cause a change in behavior and the people eating junk food just out of habit would change to a more nutritious lifestyle. The spread of information should be done by information campaigns and lessons in all schools to educate the children. Also, more money should be spent on improving the quality of the school lunches to provide the children with correct and healthy nutrients to be able to provide a better future for the next generations.
By Madeleine Nordgren
Illustration: Sonia Engström