Students urged to boycott fast food
TORONTO—Student leaders in Ontario say it’s time their peers took a stand against the food they face in cafeterias and in the fast food restaurants that often ring schools.
Tired of poor-quality food options, they are rolling out a campaign calling on students to boycott fast food for the month of November.
Its logo—already emblazoned on T-shirts kids can order—looks both like a fork with a single standing tine—and a hand with the middle finger raised.
“In our school boards all the time, we hear that cafeterias aren’t good enough, students aren’t healthy enough,” said Hirad Zafari, a Grade 12 student at Toronto’s Don Mills Collegiate and president of the Ontario Student Trustees Association.
“Obesity rates are high. All these statistics,” Zafari noted. “[But] when it comes to doing something, even the adults don’t know what to do,
“So we thought: ‘Why not, as the students who are elected to look out for the best interests of the students, do something to make it better?’”
Zafari is a leader of the “Stick It” campaign, which launched today in Toronto.
Students are being urged to go to the campaign’s website—stickittofastfood.org—and sign a pledge to join the boycott.
The website will provide information on how to eat a more healthy diet, including some easy-to-make lunch alternatives.
As well, students supporting the campaign can share experiences on the “Stick It” Facebook page and using the Twitter hashtag, stickit.
“It’s about telling students that we shouldn’t be settling for that,” said Kourosh Houshmand, in Grade 12 at Earl Haig Secondary School in Toronto.
“You have options and here are your options.”
Houshmand is a vice-president of the Ontario Student Trustees Association, the collective for students who sit as student representatives on school boards across the province.
The idea for the campaign grew out of a speech the association members heard last May at their annual meeting.
They needed a last-minute speaker and turned to Grant Gordon, an advertising executive who ran last spring for the Liberal Party in the federal riding left empty by the death of former NDP leader Jack Layton (Gordon lost to NDP candidate Craig Scott).
Gordon’s firm, Key Gordon Communications, styles itself as an ethical agency (its logo is “Branding the good guys.”)
He had been noodling around with the notion of a fast-food boycott and raised the idea with the students. He also showed them the logo, which his firm had designed.
It was a galvanizing encounter—giving student leaders who had been keen to tackle the issue in a way to brand fast-food as uncool.
Gordon donated the logo to the campaign, and is serving as an adviser. His firm also designed some pull-no-punches posters.
One tells kids a chemical found in caulking, Silly Putty, and shampoo is used in the preparation French fries sold by a fast-food giant.
Another says simply: “Eat Fast, Die Young.”
“I know some in the media will say the logo’s a bit obscene, but what’s truly obscene is the amount of salt, sugar, and fat fast food companies are feeding students,” Gordon insisted.
The “Stick It” launch comes in a week when the Ontario Medical Association went public with a related effort—an assault on obesity.
Among the measures the doctors’ organization is promoting is a move to target junk food with the weapons that were successful in the fight against smoking—things like higher taxes and requiring manufacturers or fast food restaurants to package high-calorie, low-nutritional-value foods with graphic images warning of the health consequences of obesity.
How hard will it be to convince kids to bring healthy lunches to school and pass up fries, sugary soft drinks, and pizza slices?
Zafari said he used to eat fast food four or five times a week, but has changed his eating habits. He’s hopeful his peers will follow suit.
“It will be tough to get 100 percent of students on board,” he admitted.
“But we think a good majority care about what they’re eating, and would love to take an initiative against these fast food places that only care about their profits.”