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Article of Interest - School Nutrition

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Bridges4Kids LogoAlaska Bill Would Ban School Soda Sales
by Marsha Herbst, Juneau Empire, February 15, 2004
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Supporters point to rising levels of obesity, diabetes as reasons for measure.

Juneau-Douglas High School senior Brandon Brist drinks one or two 20-ounce bottles of soda per day, because it tastes good. He said he knows Pepsi isn't good for him, so he limits his intake.
But football and baseball player C.J. Keys, 17, won't touch the stuff.

"I quit drinking it four years ago. You just acquire a taste for it. You think you need it, but it dehydrates you," Keys said.

Keys supports a bill in the Legislature that would ban soda sales at school.

House Bill 80 would ban schools from selling between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. carbonated beverages or drinks containing more than 42 grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving. Soft drinks that are more than 50 percent fruit juice would be allowed.

Supporters of the bill point to rising levels of obesity and Type 2 diabetes among teenagers and say schools should promote healthy nutrition habits. But others worry that schools will lose much-needed activities dollars if they pull the plug on the machines.

JDHS, which has an open campus, would lose a lot of money if the bill passes, said activities director Sandi Wagner.

"If a kid wants a pop, they're just going to go off campus and get it anyway. Will we lose because the pop is accessible to them on another avenue? Absolutely," Wagner said.

She said JDHS has averaged about $25,000 a year in vending machine receipts.

The machines sell snacks, Gatorade, water and juices in addition to soda, but soda is the top seller, she said.

Brist said the answer is to lower the cost of juice, which runs $1.50 a bottle, and increase the cost of soda, currently $1.25. But juice costs the school more, Wagner said.

JDHS Principal Deb Morse said she would like to see the end of school-day soda sales, but the money issue is a large concern.

"I wish that in a perfect world we would have money to run activities without having to sell concessions, but I think overall, if it would make a difference in student health and address the issue of obesity, I think I would support it," Morse said.

Mary Francis, executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators, said the soft-drink question should be a local decision in the hands of school districts.

"I recently retired after 12 years as superintendent in Petersburg. We pulled the plug on those machines during the school day. Students didn't have access to them. You can do that. You don't need a state law to tell them to do that," Francis said.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mary Kapsner, a Bethel Democrat, said she modeled her legislation on a law passed in Oakland, Calif., which restricted soft-drink sales.

"They found that (the school districts) made more money off of healthier substitutes in the vending machines," Kapsner said.

Cynthia Shaw, a family and consumer sciences teacher at JDHS, said the bill is important, and should be accompanied with health education.

"When you look at the irony of Pepsi-Cola sponsoring the Olympics, it's all about business, it's all about making money," Shaw said. "Our athletes in the classroom know you don't drink pop if you want to be successful at athletics."

Shaw allows her students to bring drinks into the classroom, and while she advocates water and juices, she frequently sees sodas. In her nutrition classes when she has students keep food diaries, she is amazed to see how many of them drink soda to the exclusion of other, healthier beverages.

"(Years ago) we were getting eight-ounce bottles of Coke as an occasional treat. But now it has replaced milk in the diet of many of our students," she said.

House Bill 80 was heard last week in the House Labor and Commerce Committee, where it was held for further hearings. Rep. Carl Gatto, a Palmer Republican, expressed concern during the hearing that the bill would interfere with parental and local control.


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