Draconian food-cop policies almost always have unintended consequences. Such is the case in Austin, Texas, where one high school’s ban on snack foods has created a thriving black market for candy bars and other sweets. The Austin American-Statesman reports: “The candy removal plan, according to students at Austin High, was thwarted by classmates who created an underground candy market, turning the hallways of the high school into Willy-Wonka-meets-Casablanca.“
Austin High instituted its ill-conceived ban in order to comply with the newly minted Texas Public School Nutrition Policy. The policy went into effect in August following unilateral action by Texas Agricultural Commissioner (and self-described “Food Czarina”) Susan Combs. In predictably autocratic fashion, Combs explained that she “did this by fiat” rather than by legislation.
Combs’s edict was quickly circumvented. The American-Statesman reports that the candy black market thrived:
“There was no sugar in the vending machines, so (student vendors) could make a lot of money,” said Hayden Starkey, an Austin High junior who said he was not one of the candy sellers. “I heard kids were making $200 a week just selling candy…”
During the prohibition, one student, who asked not to be identified, said that he sold candy at the school and made as much as $50 in a day…
“It’s all about supply and demand,” said Austin junior Scott Roudebush. “We’ve got some entrepreneurs around here.”
This story should serve as a cautionary tale for groups that want bans on vending machines in schools. According to a Gallup poll, sixty-eight percent of students think that getting rid of vending machines in schools wouldn’t reduce soda consumption. And even one of the chief food cops at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) admits that she gives her own kids treats because “I don’t want it to become a forbidden fruit.“