In the 1960’s, every kid I knew had the same idea. Where can we scrape up a few nickels to buy a chocolate bar? Forget the search for peace, love and understanding. The bigger question was, how many pop bottles can I find to trade for penny candy? We'd check every ditch, and weren’t above asking couples at the beach for their empties.
We thought about the sweet stuff a lot, probably more than kids do nowadays. That’s why Halloween was such a big deal. It was the same thing with soft drinks. We got them in our Christmas stockings, or while on vacation. How many of us remember traveling with the car windows rolled down on a hot day, everyone covered in road dust, a cold, sweaty pop in each person’s hand?
This memory illustrates the difference from then to now. The change in consumption is having a definite effect on our environment. Because kids (and adults) have treats every day, there are food wrappers, plastic bottles and pop cans strewn everywhere. They’re more noticeable on the walking paths around town. Even the strategic placement of garbage cans and recycling bins seem to have little impact. This careless attitude is disrespectful to our town, to Mother Earth, and to each other. Its even disrespectful to candy, when you think about it.
The other impact of junk food is felt by society as a whole. Nobody set out to exercise in the sixties, at least from what I can remember. Everyone played, or worked in their gardens or shoveled snow. Yet somehow, people were fitter. At least, that’s how it seems in my memory. Today we battle with soaring diabetes rates, cancer and other diseases that may be weight related. It turns out that most of the candy around now is made with cheaper alternatives, like high fructose corn syrup.
It seems that cheap and readily available junk food is not a good thing for anyone. Not for the children who struggle with obesity, their health compromised at a young age. And certainly not for society, as costs rise and the government struggles to keep up with an increasingly unhealthy population.
It was hard for smokers when the price of cigarettes went sky high because of large tax levies. Smoking has been recognized as being hazardous to our health, and a high cost is a deterrent to a lot of people. Maybe if junk food cost more, it would have the same impact. The tax money could be used for health care, and the general population would benefit. There’d be a lot less litter around town, and who knows? Maybe the chips, chocolate bars and pop would make a Christmas comeback.