Junk Food Goes Underground in Calif. Schools

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Jennifer Obakhume is a senior at Inglewood High School in Los Angeles. She reports on the trend of underground junk food networks at some California schools. Many school districts are limiting cafeteria soda and junk food options in an effort to curb childhood obesity. Her story was produced by Youth Radio.


Next we're going to hear about a source of food that is really hidden. It's a consequence of official efforts to cut of the supply of junk food in schools. Earlier this year, California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed a bill that limits soda machines and encourages healthier food options in California school. Those who hope that stricter rules can make a difference may want to listen to Jennifer Obakhume of Youth Radio.


I'm a senior at Englewood High School in Los Angeles and I must confess that my preference for lunch is a candy bar and a grape soda. Last spring, my school stopped selling fast food and took out all but one soda machine which now has an unbelievable line. They didn't plan for what happened next--a black market for junk food.

Unidentified Student #1: Do you just have Reese's or...

Unidentified Student #2: I have M&Ms.

Unidentified Student #1: So Reese's or--I'll take a Reese's.

(Soundbite of voices)

OBAKHUME: Here's how it works.

Unidentified Student #2: Thank you.

OBAKHUME: Students buy huge variety boxes of candy and chips or go to Burger King or Starbucks in the morning and then sell their supplies. Anthony Hurrayi(ph) says students hide their transactions from stricter teachers when their backs are turned in class.

ANTHONY HURRAYI (Student): So they're like whispering. They're like, `Hey, I got candy. Who wants to buy?' And then they're like, `Well, I want to buy.' And they pass the money from student to student to student and they pass the stuff back. It's really funny to see it.

(Soundbite of voices)

OBAKHUME: You've got to see it to believe it. Seniors who get out at noon throw fast food over campus gates to friends. And not only that, some students even call in pizza orders and have them delivered at the school gate. If you get caught, they take away your loot.

(Soundbite of voices)

OBAKHUME: If you think that's harsh, across town at Hollywood High School, senior Michael Bustamante(ph) says administrators there are cracking down hard on the underground food trade and suspending students as if it were drug dealing.

Mr. MICHAEL BUSTAMANTE (Student): Well, my home boy used to do that, but he--they say that that's like dealing stuff. So no, not no more.

OBAKHUME: And when the junk food was being sold, like your home boy selling it, would you buy it?

Mr. BUSTAMANTE: Yeah, of course. I would support my home boy.

OBAKHUME: Let's find a compromise here. I've heard that some schools are setting aside one day a week to serve pizza and other fast food in the cafeteria. I'm all for that. After all, wouldn't you rather kids learned about junk food in the safety of their school's cafeteria instead of from their friends on the streets?

INSKEEP: Jennifer Obakhume is a senior at Englewood High School in Los Angeles, California. Her report was produced by Youth Radio.

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