No Soda in School

  1. L.A. Schools Set to Can Soda Sales
    By CARA MIA DiMASSA and ERIKA HAYASAKI

    Dr Pepper is about to get expelled from public schools in Los Angeles. So, too, are Coke, Pepsi and Mr. PiBB. In an effort to promote better health, the Los Angeles school district's board is expected Tuesday to ban soft drink sales during school hours at all of its 677 schools.

    Educators and legislators have been grappling for years with how to curb junk food consumption on campuses. So far, only a handful of districts, including the Oakland Unified School District, have restricted soft drink sales.

    "It's going to set a national trend," said Francesca de la Rosa of the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute. The Los Angeles Unified School District, with 748,000 students, is the nation's second-largest. "People will say, if you can do it at LAUSD, you can do it anywhere."

    But some principals and students at more than 200 middle and high schools worry about replacing thousands of dollars they receive each year from soft drink sales. That money helps fund field trips, school dances and athletic programs.

    Alex Contreras, assistant principal of Los Angeles High School, said his school stands to lose money for sports referees, dance supervisors, student store managers and field trips. In the past, Coca-Cola has offered the school $50,000 upfront for a three-year exclusive contract, on top of the nearly $5,000 a month the campus earns from soft drink sales.

    "You can only sell so many candy bars and have so many magazine drives," Contreras said. "Honestly, some of those programs will be hurt very badly, and I don't know what alternative we will have."

    Kenneth Raymond, a 17-year-old senior at Dorsey High School, said the ban would "be a real shocker" to students who depend on the money to help pay for a number of activities.

    "When it is time for us to have dances and we don't have enough money, we rely on money from vending machines," Raymond said. "Even at pep rallies, we need to pay for our deejays. The school isn't going to pay for that."

    School Board President Caprice Young said the district would phase in the initiative slowly, in part to find alternative sources of money. "We need to make sure the kids are drinking things that are not unhealthy for them, and at the same time balancing the need to have revenue for our clubs and sports," she said. "I think we'll be able to do that."

    Genethia Hudley-Hayes, one of the three co-sponsors of the motion before the school board, said the district should not be contributing to the unhealthy lifestyles of children, particularly blacks and Latinos.

    Such children, she said, "suffer greater childhood obesity, juvenile diabetes, asthma....Why do we let them get off of the bus and have them rush immediately to drink a sugar-caffeinated drink, and then say, 'OK, please now go participate in rigorous academic training' ?"

    Hayes said she believes schools can make up money lost by selling more healthful drinks.

    "People purchase what is available," she said.

    If the motion passes as expected, all schools will be prohibited from selling carbonated drinks during school hours starting in January 2004. Water, milk, drinks composed of at least 50% fruit juice and sports drinks with less than 42 grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving would still be allowed.

    A similar ban on sodas in elementary schools was signed into law last October by Gov. Gray Davis, as part of legislation limiting the sale of junk food and soda in public elementary schools. It will also go into effect in January 2004. In May, a proposal to phase out sale of sodas in all California public schools failed to clear the state Senate's Education Committee.

    Similar unsuccessful legislation has been introduced in Maryland, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Texas is the only state that bans the sale of all junk food, including soft drinks, during lunchtime on its public school campuses.

    The motion before the Los Angeles board is co-sponsored by Hayes, Marlene Canter and Julie Korenstein. It was inspired in part by research showing that nearly half the students in the district's poorest schools were obese or at least overweight.

    A United States Department of Agriculture study conducted in the mid-1990s showed that children ages 12 to 17 receive 11% of their calories from soft drinks. A report published last year by doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston showed that children who consume one extra sugar-sweetened drink a day have a 60% greater chance of becoming obese.

    "It's liquid candy, and it's screwing up our metabolism," said Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietitian with Los Angeles Project LEAN/Food on the Run, a state program that advocates healthier school food and beverages.

    Sean McBride, spokesman for the National Soft Drink Assn., said the board members' efforts to prevent childhood obesity are misguided.

    "We are being singled out for a very complex problem," he said.

    The district should provide more nutrition education instead of targeting soda sales, he said. "The one thing you simply cannot ignore in this is the role of a sedentary lifestyle," he said. "This is about the couch, not about the can."

    According to a 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of U.S. school districts have contracts that give a company the exclusive right to sell soft drinks on campuses.

    The 55,000-student Oakland Unified School District banned the sale of soda and junk food during school hours last year, said Supt. Dennis Chaconas. District schools earned nearly $500,000 from soft drink sales each year. Chaconas said officials have not determined how much money campuses have lost from the ban. He added, however, that junior prom ticket prices went up this year because students could no longer sell candy to help fund the event.

    L.A. Unified's Venice High School, which is part of a state program to help develop school nutrition policies, is set to remove all soft drinks from its vending machines by the time school opens Sept. 3.

    "It's never been the responsibility of our students to subsidize their public education with their pocket change," said Jacqueline Domac, a health teacher there. Since the school introduced water and juice into its vending machines two years ago, she said, items such as water and pure orange juice have proved highly popular and Coca-Cola sales have decreased 17%. Domac said she has been working to find vendors who offer more commission per bottle sold than Coca-Cola does.

    Both PepsiCo Inc. and the Coca-Cola Co., which control the majority of the soft drink contracts within the district, also sell noncarbonated drinks that would still be allowed. Pepsi, for example, also offers Aquafina water, Dole juices and Gatorade; Coke offers Dasani water, Minute Maid juices and Powerade.

    Bob Phillips, a spokesman for Coca-Cola, would only say that his company is continuing discussions with individual schools. Pepsi officials could not be reached.

    In addition to the three co-sponsors of the motion, Young and board member David Tokofsky say they support the ban. Board member Jose Huizar could not be reached for comment Saturday.

    The seventh board member, Mike Lansing, said he does not support the motion because it does not go far enough. "Why just sodas?" he asked. "Why not cheese chips? Why not candy or any fatty foods we are selling in our cafeterias? We don't even prioritize physical fitness, yet we're going to eliminate obesity by stopping soda sales?"

    For Veronica Reyes, 13, an eighth-grader at John Muir Middle School in South-Central Los Angeles, being denied her joy of Pepsi is almost unthinkable.

    "I'm not used to water that much, even though my mom tries to make me drink it," she said. "It's unfair because when we get thirsty we need something to drink, and we don't want water. We want something that has sugar."

    Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   Heather333
    For Veronica Reyes, 13, an eighth-grader at John Muir Middle School in South-Central Los Angeles, being denied her joy of Pepsi is almost unthinkable.

    "I'm not used to water that much, even though my mom tries to make me drink it," she said. "It's unfair because when we get thirsty we need something to drink, and we don't want water. We want something that has sugar."

    You know, that is really sad. Our bodies are meant for water not all that other crap....especially for growing kids. No wonder obesity in children is such a problem.

    Heather
  4. by   Nurse Ratched
    It does seem that we should offer students a selection of *healthy* choices. Only parents can control what kids do after school, but while they are "captive" then at least the institution responsible for their well-being shouldn't shill for the fast food and soft drink companies. (I also don't get this business of having McDonalds and other restaurants setting up shop in schools.)
  5. by   Rustyhammer
    Originally posted by Nurse Ratched
    It does seem that we should offer students a selection of *healthy* choices. Only parents can control what kids do after school, but while they are "captive" then at least the institution responsible for their well-being shouldn't shill for the fast food and soft drink companies. (I also don't get this business of having McDonalds and other restaurants setting up shop in schools.)

    I have NEVER heard of McDonalds in a public school!
    Am I too old?
    Is this common?
    I would definitely protest.
    Does it take the place of the school cafeteria?
    -Russell
  6. by   Q.
    I once read a study that associated carbonated beverage consumption in young adolescent girls with higher incidence of osteoporosis. The hypothesis was that the carbonation actually leeched out Ca+ from bones, aside from the fact that milk consumption was down as a result.

    When I was in school (now I am sounding old) we had our choice of milk, water and I think a juice of some sort. I think we had *one* soda machine near the gym.

    I'm not sure what my opinion is; I think in high school kids are old enough to decide what to drink; if they want to drink soda, let 'em. They will anyway. I think a choice of ALL beverages wouldn't be so bad. I guess I have a hard time having someone tell me at the age of 17 that I can't have a Coke while at school on MY LUNCH HOUR.
  7. by   Mkue
    our school provides a "juice" machine with fruit juices, also allsport, gatorade.. etc.. water.

    i think kids can live without "soda" during the day, there are other ways to get "sugar". so i wouldn't have a problem with banning soda in schools.

    i'm sure some kids would have a problem with it..lol, but oh well, sometimes they don't know what is "best" for them.

    i would push the

    h2o
  8. by   warrior woman
    THE Toledo Hospital actually has a McDonald's in their cafeteria. I kid you not!! I guess their hoping for repeat business from people who've had heart bypasses. Warrior Woman.
  9. by   kristi915
    Ummm....McD's in a school?

    My school also depends on the sale of candy and soda. I don't drink soda any more. I usually just drink water or maybe juice or something.

    Kids that buy a soda every day spend $3.75 a week....kids that buy one candy bar every day spend $2.50 a week...kids that buy one soda and one candy bar a day spend $6.25 a week...just on junk...I haven't even included the lunch money yet...now lets say that this kid that buys one soda and one candy bar every day, does this for the whole year.....(let's just say I know how many days we go to school...) he would spend $556.25 (now that's for only like 89 days........)

    Can you imagine??? More then $500 bucks wasted on junk food, when the money could of gone towards college, or your first car??? Wow....I'll just stick with bringing water from home......
  10. by   Q.
    Originally posted by warrior woman
    THE Toledo Hospital actually has a McDonald's in their cafeteria. I kid you not!! I guess their hoping for repeat business from people who've had heart bypasses. Warrior Woman.
    Again, I don't understand why this is sooooo bad. I mean, there ARE choices out there. Just because a McDonald's is located somewhere doesn't mean you HAVE to buy it! Besides, if someone is a patient at the Toledo Hospital for heart bypass, do you REALLY think they will visit the hospital while NOT a patient, JUST to eat at that McDonald's?

    So, the hospital offers a McDonald's, and wilted, bug infested two day old salads from the cafeteria. Which is the lesser evil? And so because some fat, smoking, non-exercisin', Ho-Ho eatin' person can't control their choices, I have to suffer with limited choices?

    Take responsibility for your own choices in life!
  11. by   Vsummer1
    I bet the there is gonna be some kids making a killing selling soda's to their caffiene addicted school mates!

    They won't be sneaking smokes in the bathrooms anymore, it will be coke (pun intended).
  12. by   kittyw
    Originally posted by Rustyhammer



    I have NEVER heard of McDonalds in a public school!
    Am I too old?
    Is this common?
    I would definitely protest.
    Does it take the place of the school cafeteria?
    -Russell
    My high school cafeteria was no better than eating at Mc D's.

    Kitty
  13. by   aimeee
    Why can't they make their money off juice vending machines? It has "sugar" but at least it has some nutrients too. Somehow I survived high school with NO vending machines at all. If we were thirsty, we got a drink from the drinking fountain.

    I am also appalled at the whole "channel one" thing too where commercial advertisers are allowed exclusive access to peddle their wares to a captive audience in exchange for video equipment for the classroom. Our children are taught to listen to the messages they receive in school so if we provide provide commercials and junk food for them it is the same as a school testimonial. What are kids to think besides "it must be okay because they give it to us as school"?

    I think that at an early age they should incorporate lessons in consumerism into the curriculum. Start teaching kids how to interpret the messages in commercials, show them how they are being manipulated, let them use their math skills to figure out what the best bargains are, write essays about how certain commercials make them feel. Show them how to use their brains to avoid being victims of the media, especially now that those messages are being directed at ever younger groups.
  14. by   MollyJ
    Mmmm. I think this is a hard one, because school organizations have become dependent on the $$$ from pop machines. also, it's easier to have control over the stock levels when a machine dispenses the inevitable candy vs. students. (lots fewer 'give aways').

    I'm appalled when I was in my schools because there is so much childhood obesity and so many kids who's primary nutrition was the 20 oz of sugared, caffeinated pop from the machine along with the high fat, high sugar muffins or twinkies from the school vendor. But one principal pointed out that alot of these kids didn't eat at all and this at least was some calories to jump start their energy depleted brain in the morning in the classroom.

    It is easy to believe that coronary artery disease is a "pediatric disease" as more than one public health official has said, because the origins of the disease are so clearly in childhood.

    Good nutrition occurs when a parent teaches it and reinforces it with a home filled with good, not perfect, nutritional choices and good nutritional meals. A community, and especially a school community, has an obligation to make good nutritional choices available.

    My school struck somewhat of a balance by having pop available, but the machines were on a timer. They vended in the morning, over lunch and after school only. I do wish they didn't vend 20 oz bottles of pop (rather smaller 12 oz bottles). That a lot of sugared water.

    In the middle school and high school, kids always had a typical school lunch choice plus a salad bar. The HS salad bar always had diced ham or tuna on it with lots of raw veggies and some mayo based salads. HS school kids could always purchase a pizza wedge. They also periodically served pizza that I called "Crisco smeared on white bread".

    Our school tried to balance, but the net effect was still pretty high in fat.

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