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Fast-Food Foes' Fight Fails

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Students in Vicki Krupa's health class at the Hilltonia Middle School in Columbus, Ohio, have changed their eating habits, even if most other students in the school district won't.

The students--who have been studying about the four food groups and the dangers of a diet with too much sugar, salt, and cholesterol--decided to review the school-lunch menu and propose an alternative that would give students fewer opportunities to eat junk foods.

"The breakfast program for city is doughnuts and Pop Tarts, heavily presweetened cereals," Ms. Krupa explained. "The milk is a choice of chocolate or regular but everyone takes chocolate."

Olive M. Davenport, a 6th grader in Ms. Krupa's class, said her school--like most others in Columbus--has two lunch lines, one with a daily entree and another that sells cheeseburgers and french fries. All of the school's students can purchase ice cream, pie, cookies, cake, and french fries, often in lieu of a regular meal.

The menu that Ms. Krupa's class devised does not include such items. For breakfast, they propose serving wheat toast, muffins, and unsweetened cereal; they also seek to replace sugary soft drinks with milk or juice and water.

The students' lunch menu offers casseroles, sandwiches, and soups. "The lasagna they served for lunch today ... had too much sodium and sauce," according to Ms. Davenport.

According to Stephanie Warsmith, also a 6th grader, "It would be a lot nicer if they had fresh vegetables and fruits to pick up rather than the fruit cup with all that sugary syrup."

In November, the students wrote a letter to the school department's food-services chief, the superintendent of schools, the school board, and others, seeking to have the menu changed. The letter was sent along with a copy of the existing menu, their revised menu, and copies of research articles from the public library on what too much fat, salt, and sugar does to the body and how improper diets can lead to cancer and heart attacks.

Their only response was from the food-services director, Paul C. James, who argued that the junk food met "federal regulations" and that students should have "choices" in what they eat.

"It is important that students recognize differences in what constitutes a well-balanced meal. However, tastes of students also vary ...,'' Mr. James wrote.

"What we're trying to tell him is going in one ear and coming out the other," said Ms. Warsmith.

Although most of her friends still eat a lot of french fries and cakes, Ms. Davenport has steered clear--and also lost eight pounds. "If I want something sweet, I have grapes, an orange, or a banana," she said.

Jason Hockstok, a fellow student, has another solution to ensuring that he has a good lunch every day. He brings one from home.

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