Pediatricians Urge Soda Ban In Schools - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/5/04 - Tyler

Pediatricians Urge Soda Ban In Schools

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging schools to ban soft drinks on campuses. This comes in response to the growing juvenile obesity problem around the country. And that includes East Texas.

The academy says about one in seven kids in America is seriously overweight. Part of the problem, they say, is more than half of school-age children consume at least one soft drink a day.

Tyler ISD says soft drinks are not available in any of its school cafeterias. But middle and high school campuses do have vending machines. Middle schools have to follow special rules. State law mandates that schools turn off soft drink machines during meal times. Even though TISD has a contract with Pepsi, each school within the district can choose which products to put in their vending machines, like juice drinks, sport drinks, and water. Those are some of the healthier alternatives brought in this school year by campuses like Hubbard Middle School.

"We do make a little bit of money off of that, so we didn't want to completely cut it out," Tucker Dudley, principal, said.

TISD says a portion of the revenue from vending machine sales goes directly into student activities.

"Probably if those soft drinks were on, probably more things would be sold out of those machines than out of the more nutritionally sound ones," Dudley said.

TISD says its contract with Pepsi still has three more years to go. Meanwhile, the district is considering even more nutritional alternatives.

"I'm looking right now into a milk vending program," Victor Olivares, Food Services coordinator, said.

Pediatricians say schools should not sacrifice the health of its students to make money off of soda machines.

"If you principally look at the budget today, you may see a deficit," Dr. Jonathan Bigwood, pediatrician at ETMC, said. "But the cost to the country and the cost personally that will be felt by these children if they continue becoming as obese as they are becoming, it's going to cost a lot more."

The National Soft Drink Association says taking sodas out of schools is not going to solve the juvenile obesity problem. But pediatricians say it's a vital step in the right direction.

TISD says it strictly follows guidelines from the Texas Department of Agriculture. So if the government hands down legislation on soft drinks in schools, the district will comply.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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