[Jog] Philadelphia Schools to Can Sales of Soda
Jennifer L YOUNG
Jennifer.L.Young at state.or.us
Wed Jul 9 20:34:35 PDT 2003
>From the Philadelpia Inquirer http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/6260814.htm
Posted on Wed, Jul. 09, 2003
Philadelphia Schools to Can Sales of Soda
By Marian Uhlman and Susan Snyder
Inquirer Staff Writers
Alarmed by students' poor nutrition and a growing obesity problem, Philadelphia plans to ban the sale of soda in public schools, schools chief executive Paul G. Vallas said yesterday.
"It is safe to say that there will be ... no soda in the schools," he said. "There is a consensus [on the School Reform Commission that] what is sold in the schools needs to be of nutritional value."
Philadelphia will join New York, Los Angeles, and several other major urban districts in eliminating soft drinks from school buildings.
The Philadelphia ban won't become policy until the commission votes on a beverage contract, according to Cecilia Cummings, a district spokeswoman. The district plans to enter into negotiations for an exclusive vending contract this summer.
Vallas said that juices and water would still be sold and that the district would examine the nutritional quality of other beverages and snacks sold in the schools.
As concern has mounted over the rising rate of childhood obesity and related health problems, school districts around the country have begun to set stricter food standards. New York City's school system announced last month that it would eliminate soda, hard candy and doughnuts from its vending machines. The Los Angeles Unified District voted last year to ban carbonated beverages in all its schools, effective next January.
"These are positive trends that we are going to continue to see across the country as administrators and boards of education and others in key positions recognize the link between what kids are eating in school and obesity rates and other chronic diseases," said Tracy Fox, a nutrition policy consultant in Bethesda, Md.
Though the issue of selling soft drinks and other sugary drinks has snowballed in the last few years, it is not universal.
In the Palisades School District in Bucks County, the matter has not been debated, and "there has not been any kind of public outcry," Board President James Beerer said. He said the high school offers healthful choices, such as water and juice, as well as soda, and that good nutrition is emphasized in classes.
"I think if schools provide a lot of choice and what traditionally would be viewed as healthy offerings in addition to soda, you're basically allowing students to make educated decisions," said Beerer, who is also a retired high school principal of Quakertown High School.
The Hatboro-Horsham School District in Montgomery County does not sell soda in any of its schools, Board President Thomas J. Hagan said. The board considered reversing that policy several years ago, but decided against it, he said.
"For health reasons, they didn't feel it was appropriate," he said.
Vending machines can generate significant income for schools, but also are blamed for selling junk food. In particular, exclusive beverage deals requiring schools to buy from one company have been criticized by parents and nutrition advocates.
In advertising for bids last spring, the Philadelphia School District said the "primary objective" of an exclusive deal would be to increase revenue for its cash-strapped schools. The district encouraged companies to consider "the opportunities that might be available" by adding more vending machines and increasing use of their products, "including carbonated beverages in the elementary schools."
But Vallas said yesterday that when members of the School Reform Commission started to focus on the bids, they decided to steer clear of soda and to stock vending machines with water and juices instead.
"The funding side always takes a backseat to health," he said.
Still, he said, the school district generally can do better with its contracts. The beverage issue is part of a larger district effort to review other contracts, he said. It's possible that none of the current beverage bids would be approved, school officials said.
"It is terrific if they decide to implement a policy that no sodas are in the schools and move beyond that to look at all foods that are sold in schools to make them healthy and nutritious," said Duane Perry, executive director of the Food Trust in Philadelphia, which is working with the district to develop a school nutrition policy. "That would be a great step forward."
Over the last few years, the assortment of beverages available in school vending machines has increased. Now, water, 100 percent juice, and sports drinks such as Powerade make up a quarter of sales, school officials said.
Three years ago, the Philadelphia school board turned down a 10-year, $43 million deal with Coca-Cola because it was not lucrative enough and raised nutritional concerns.
Contact staff writer Marian Uhlman at 215-854-2473 or muhlman at phillynews.com.
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