Sugary sodas booted from schools

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 16, 2007

In an unprecedented joint effort between private industry and public leaders, the State Board of Education voted unanimously in Thursday's meeting to approve new vending guidelines for Alabama schools.

Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries Ron Sparks, in conjunction with the soft drink beverage association of Alabama (Alabama Beverage Association), presented guidelines to the State School Board that before had only been recommended on a voluntary basis at the national level by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation.

Butler County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney said the system has been preparing some time for this move by the state.

&#8220Last year we began switching our vending machines to low fat foods and water, juice and diet drinks,” he said. &#8220We feel as though this has helped us prepare for the new state dept regulations.”

The new guidelines will not allow carbonated beverages to be sold during the school day in elementary and middle schools, with offerings now being limited to milk, juice and water.

Diet carbonated beverages will be allowed in high schools along with milk, juice, water, tea and sport drinks.

Sparks chaired the Child Nutrition Committee established by the Board over two years ago. In addressing the Board, Sparks thanked them and the soft drink industry for their collective and collaborative efforts in bringing these guidelines into Alabama schools.

&#8220This is important to me and to Alabama,” said Sparks. &#8220I hope that people understand how important the Board's action on this is to the health of future generations of children in Alabama.

Alabama is only the second state to impose these guidelines for our schools.

The Board and Dr. Morton have done a good thing today and it is refreshing to have industry and public officials come together, because my goal has always been to have healthier children in Alabama.”

According to Mark Bain, Executive Director of the Beverage Association, &#8220This is a tremendous opportunity for our industry to prove our commitment to Alabama schools.

Our industry is proud of our products and this gives us a chance to showcase the wide variety that we now offer.

This is a win-win for all involved.”

The soft drink industry has committed to be in full compliance with the guidelines by the beginning of the 2008 – 2009 school year.

Bain added, &#8220It will take some effort, but we as an industry value and appreciate our partnership with the schools and will do all we can to honor the leadership of Commissioner Sparks, Dr. Joe Morton and the Board.”