(Interestingly enough, the University of Maryland also has a contract with Pepsi which prevents rival Coca Cola products from being sold in the diners. My roommate helpfully informs me that the McDonalds in our student union is one of only two locations worldwide to serve Pepsi products instead of Coca Cola, the fast-food chain's traditonal partner.)
Anyway, so the terms of this voluntary agreement appear pretty stringent:
The agreement calls for eliminating sales of sodas, diet sodas, sports drinks, juice drinks, apple juice or grape juice in elementary schools. Water and more healthful juices such as orange juice could continue to be sold, but in only eight-ounce or smaller containers, according to sources who were briefed yesterday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan had not yet been announced.
In middle schools, the same drinks will be offered but in containers as large as 10 ounces.
In high schools, the drink size will be limited to 12 ounces. No sugary sodas will be sold, and half the drinks offered will be water or a low-calorie beverage, such as diet soda, diet lemonade or diet iced tea. Sports drinks will be allowed, as will juice drinks as long as they have fewer than 100 calories per serving.
It's about time. I remember seeing far too many kids in high school who needed a Mountain Dew just to get through the morning. These days, those kinds of unhealthy dietary habits are starting at an even younger age--just look at the childhood obesity rates. I wish that these sorts of measures were unnecessary, and that children were smarter about their eating decisions. But it's clear that at school and away from their parents, many kids just don't know how to make the right decisions.
I applaud this move by the beverage industry. Of course, the impact on their profits is negligible, they don't have to worry about brand recognition, and these companies can now push their juice and sports drink lines. They don't really have anything to lose. Now we'll have to see how kids react when they can't wash down their lunchtime feast of powdered donuts with a Code Red.