It’s lunch time at York Mills Collegiate Institute. Students looking to satisfy their cravings head to nearby York Mills Shopping Centre.
But instead of a pick-me-up, John Joo says, the hungry students get picked apart internally by the fast food served at the plaza.
If we eat out and come back to school, we feel sick. We don’t want to learn. We’re too tired.
“We always tell each other, ‘Oh man, I’m going to feel so sick after I eat this meal,’” said Joo, a 17-year-old student at the school. “If we eat out and come back to school, we feel sick. We don’t want to learn. We’re too tired.”
As student ambassador for the Stick It To Fast Food campaign — an initiative asking Ontario students to cut out fast food for the month of November — Joo said he’s working to get the word out about junk food while avoiding being lured by it.
“We thought as students that we need to find an edgy and creative way to get students thinking twice about what they’re putting into their bodies,” Zafari said.
Last month, the Ontario Medical Association released a report that stated 31.5 per cent of Canadian children are overweight. That report, Zafari said, motivated him to launch Stick It To Fast Food, which has garnered more than 8,000 pledges from Ontario students.
Fixing the problem includes improving school cafeteria menus, he said.
“It’s the fact that we don’t have options that are causing this epidemic [of overweight kids],” Zafari said. “If students have better food in the cafeteria that was reasonably priced, they would be able to frequent it.”
Parents, too, have a role in promoting healthy food choices in young people, said Lynn Roblin, a nutrition consultant at Eatwrite Communications.
“I think we need a lot more education for parents to teach children how to eat well when they’re young and continue to eat well into their school days, high school years and beyond,” Roblin said. “It’s about encouraging families to eat healthy meals at home and to send healthy meals to school with their children.”
That education should continue at school, said Joo, adding he’d like to see chefs come to his school to teach students how to cook.
“If they were taught how to cook properly in school, it could help them so much in being organized and well-rounded,” Joo said.