LA Schools to Vote on Banning Soda

Hoping to combat childhood obesity, the nation’s second-largest school district is expected to ban the sale of soft drinks at its 677 campuses.

Sun Aug 25, 2002

By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hoping to combat childhood obesity, the nation’s second-largest school district is expected to ban the sale of soft drinks at its 677 campuses.

The sale of soda is already prohibited at elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the school board is set to vote Tuesday to extend the ban to the district’s approximately 200 middle and high schools.

“This is the right thing to do for children,” said board member Julie Korenstein, one of three co-sponsors. “There is an obesity epidemic in the United States today nationally, and there is a tremendous rise in childhood diabetes.”

“Whatever children do outside of our schools, that’s obviously up to parents and families, but we don’t feel we need to contribute to it any longer,” she said.

Although educators and legislators have long grappled with how to promote student health, few districts have restricted soft drink sales. Texas is the only state where soft drink sales are banned during lunch at all public schools.

In banning the sales, however, the district would take away a source of revenue; profits from sodas fund student activities, generating an annual average of $39,000 per high school and $14,000 per middle school.

“When it is time for us to have dances and we don’t have enough money, we rely on money from vending machines,” 17-year-old Kenneth Raymond, a senior at Dorsey High School, told the Los Angeles Times. “Even at pep rallies, we need to pay for our deejays. The school isn’t going to pay for that.”

Board member Marlene Canter, one of the measure’s sponsors, said the district would make up the funding from other sources including sales of non-carbonated beverages.

Gov. Gray Davis signed a law last year banning sodas in elementary schools that goes into effect in January 2004, but a proposal to phase out soft drink sales in all public schools failed to clear a state Senate committee in May.

Health advocates applaud the pending action at the district, which serves 748,000 students. In addition to the three sponsors, two other board members have said they support the motion, suggesting it will have more than the four of seven votes necessary for passage Tuesday.

Childhood obesity is causing increasing concern among health professionals, and soft drinks share the blame. Fourteen percent of children ages 6 through 19 are classified as obese or overweight, almost three times as many as in the 1960s.

The motion before the board Tuesday would ban all sales of carbonated drinks during school hours by January 2004. Still permitted would be water, milk, beverages with at least 50 percent fruit juice and sports drinks with less than 42 grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving.

Sean McBride, spokesman for the National Soft Drink Association, criticized the board’s proposed action.

“We are being singled out for a very complex problem,” he told the Times.

“The one thing you simply cannot ignore in this is the role of a sedentary lifestyle… This is about the couch, not about the can.”

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