GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some Gulfport High seniors left class for a few minutes Wednesday morning, so they can go shopping for fresh vegetables. Their challenge was to find veggies that cost around a dollar.
Next, they crossed the street to buy meals at a popular fast-food restaurant. Then, they returned to class to compare a dollar's worth of vegetables versus a dollar's worth of processed food.
"What advantage does this have over this?" their teacher asked as he held up a bag of celery and a bunch of French fries.
"To actually put the stuff in front of them, to weigh things on the scale and to see that one sausage biscuit is equal to two red peppers. Comparing the prices in terms of calories and how much more vegetables really are," said government teacher Hardy Thames.
Thames introduced the shopping experience to his students to explain how farm subsidies, lobbyists and consumers can influence the demand for sodas and other junk food.
"For the first time in probably, in human history, what we eat makes us sick. That's really kind of crazy," said Thames. "And there are government policies behind these cheap, high-calorie, low-nutrition foods."
"It's easier to make processed food than healthier food," said senior Caitlin Brennan.
The goal of the lesson was to get students to question what's in their food and who should be to blame for the spike in obesity and diabetes.
"They're the ones that make it in their minds to go and spend all these dollars on fast food restaurants and stuff when they can easily go to a market place and get celery and carrots and healthy stuff for you. So it's the people's fault," said senior Jeremy Newsome.
"I think it's the government's fault, because it's like the government can put regulations on the bad stuff that we're eating if they were really that concerned," said senior Chelsea Winters.
"I really want them seeing the complexity of the issue," said Thames. "It really matters in terms of our health and our quality of life and our pocketbooks."
On Thursday, a local chef will prepare meals for those Government students, so they can compare the cost and calories of restaurant food to those items they bought at the grocery store.