Thursday, May 04, 2006

So Long to Sodas in Schools

You won't see these in schools anymore.During my Wednesday morning commute, I came across this most unlikely headline in the Washington Post: "Sugary Drinks to be Pulled from Schools". The announcement that soda companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Cadbury Schweppes are pulling their unhealthy wares from elementary, middle, and high schools was a huge surprise to me. After all, I recall that my high school had an exclusive contract with Pepsi. Our school was stocked with Pepsi vending machines and the scoreboard on the football field had a big Pepsi billboard. And the soda companies, which were raking in tons of money, didn't seem to be in a position where they needed to compromise.

(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.


ABT said...

I heartily disagree. I'd like to point out how freakin ridiculous it is to be all GOD FORBID THE KIDS HAVE...APPLE JUICE [gasp]. Damned liberals. It's your own damned fault if you can't figure out what to eat and drink. At Blair we had that milk machine for awhile that sold chocolate milk, one bottle of which contained about 400% the daily value for saturated fat. And I didn't see anyone dying of heart attacks left and right. No, people were smart enough to restrict themselves to once every month or two if they felt like a treat. You can't micromanage every little decision of every child's life like that. It's just plain stupid and none of your damned business. Let's see how many more kids are hit by cars at lunch next year when they run over to get some soda from 7-11. AAGH stop interfering!

Jay said...

Actually, yours was my initial reaction. I figured that choice was always best, and that we had to count on kids to be the smart consumers.

Here's the argument that changed my mind: at this young age, kids are reliant on their parents to teach them about nutrition and healthy diets. During the day though, school takes the role of the parent in that it is responsible for the child's welfare. I see no problem with the school assuming the role of being responsible for children's nutrition when the children are at school--this is done in terms of choosing the offerings at the cafeteria and in the vending machines. No one's stopping the kids from getting a soda outside of school (and most will). If you accept the premise that schools have subjects like Physical Education (instead of saying "it's your own damn fault if you don't exercise), then this follows logically.

Lastly, keep in mind that this is not some law being passed that would ban sodas in schools, and the beverage companies are not challenging this. I think it's a good move.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Jay...I would think that childhood obesity is more a result of lack of choice than of poor choices. I would support adding vending machines in schools with coffee, tea, trail mix, and other healthier options and I would support putting up posters or something with nutrition facts or health facts or whatnot. However, at the same time I think that they should still leave some vending machines in with unhealthy stuff simply because, if kids are going to make poor decisions, they should make those decisions at a younger age when the consequences are not as severe. If you overdo it with the sugary sodas in high school, your parents are still around and they will notice and they will try to encourage you to become healthier / get you help if you need it. But if you come to college and that's the first time you have all the freedom in the world to overload on junk and you wind up overdoing it then, no one's going to be there to stop you. Basically my point is that at the high school age, kids should be learning to make decisions on their own because they're mature enough to think on their own but immature enough to screw up. Kids should have healthy and unhealthy options so that they learn to make the right decisions. - Neha

Anonymous said...

Jay, I don't know if your roommate is a tour guide or not but the "official" tour guide word is that we are one of THREE mcdonalds' worldwide to sell Pepsi products.
Either that, or I heard wrong and have been grossly misinforming hundreds of people each month about just how special our campus really is.

Lindsey ( ... yeah right. one of these days)