push for more healthy foods in schools
They cheered the move against soda in Philadelphia.
by Susan Snyder, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 2003
Distributed by Parents Advocating School Accountability, San
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Canning the sale
of soda in Philadelphia's public schools is a good first step,
but the district must also improve the nutritional value of its
school-lunch program and the snacks it sells, nutrition
advocates said yesterday.
Citing concerns about students' poor nutrition and a growing
obesity problem, district chief executive Paul G. Vallas
announced earlier this week that he planned to ban the sale of
soda in schools when the district finalized a beverage deal.
"This is a strong statement about the role of the schools in
helping children develop healthy eating habits... . We applaud
this decision," said Karima Rose, who spoke at a School Reform
Commission meeting yesterday.
After the meeting, Rose said: "Let's take a step further. Let's
look at the snacks. Let's look at the foods that are being
served in the a la carte [offerings] and the lunches."
Rose, who belongs to a group involved in a pilot nutrition
project in the city schools called Food Trust, also said the
district should phase in a requirement over several years for
all juices to be 100 percent juice.
The final decision on whether to ban soda will be up to the
commission as it considers a contract with beverage companies.
Vallas said the district also was contemplating other steps
toward better nutrition.
It has brought on a team of school-lunch experts from the
Council of the Great City Schools to evaluate the quality of
district lunches, he said. One parent complained yesterday that
french fries were too readily available.
The district also is reconsidering the snacks it allows to be
sold, Vallas said. Students now can purchase ice cream bars,
potato chips and cupcakes, among other snacks.
"We should be dispensing and selling things in the schools that
are of nutritional value," he said.
The district also is planning to "anchor" nutrition education in
its new science curriculum, which is being developed.
The district has about 700 vending machines in its schools and
administrative offices. About half of those are in cafeterias,
which by federal law cannot carry sodas for sale.
They sell juices, water and sports drinks, among other
There are 247 machines in faculty lounges, and they include
soda, which probably will continue to be sold.
And 116 machines are in school hallways. They also carry soda,
which would be eliminated. Most of them are in high schools,
If the district bans the sale of soda, it will join a growing
number of school districts around the country that are taking
steps to improve nutrition. Both New York and Los Angeles have
announced bans on soda.
Vallas said he hoped the decision on an exclusive beverage
contract would be made by the end of the summer.
The Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co., which is one of the
bidders, said a ban on soda would not cause a problem. The
company already does a lot of business in the district, and 82
percent of those sales are non- carbonated beverages, said
Domenic Celenza, vice president of cold-drink sales.
"Within the negotiation with the district, they've expressed
that they want to play the primary role in the products that are
vended, and we told them we agree," he said.
Cecilia James, a grandparent of four district children, attended
yesterday's meeting with a jar filled with two cups of sugar,
the amount that she said a child drinks on average in sodas over
a week. She said some sodas also contained caffeine, which can
cause children to lose sleep and become irritable.
"We need not balance our budget at the risk of our children's
health," said James, of the Philadelphia Coalition for Healthy
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