Soda In Schools? No More!

We recently moved to a new school district and we couldn’t believe that our local elementary school had fully stocked vending machines, accessible to kids, full of sodas, candy and other unhealthy snacks. I can’t imagine why they would offer this or how these snacks could be beneficial to children or help promote learning.

Rapidly rising childhood obesity rates have caused schools, often driven by parents, to also consider the connection between snacks and health. Most of these snacks, particularly soda and other drinks are high in sugar and devoid of any nutritional value at all. They are being consumed in schools at such an alarming rate that it is no wonder children are becoming obese.

Finally something has been done. This week, major soda manufacturers Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Schweppes, along with the America Beverage Association have agreed to sign a deal brokered by a collaboration between the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association that will cease the sales of these beverages in all elementary and middle schools, nationwide. In the future, sales will be limited to water, 100% juice drinks and low-fat milk. High schools may also have diet soda, unsweetened tea, low-calorie sports and juice drinks as a choice. Under the new agreement, sales of the “banned” beverages will be restricted to activities where adults are the primary targets of the refreshments. Therefore activities such as school sporting events and concerts may continue to sell soda and other restricted beverages but these beverages will not be allowed at school-sponsored clubs and after-school practices.

Can you expect to see a change immediately? No. But if this is something you support, and all parents should support such a fundamentally sound goal of better health for their children, start putting pressure on your local school, PTA, school board, etc. The more the schools hear from parents that are in support of such action, the more likely they will be to break contracts with the distributors and start up the new restrictions. At this point, the goal is to have 75% of all schools in compliance by the start of the 2008 school-year and 100% compliance by the following year.