Soda may be banned from school vending machines
A former school nurse said she was “just livid” when a soda machine appeared at Seven Hills Middle School.
“It had some of the highest-caffeinated beverages – the worse things you could put in a middle school,” said Sharyn Turner.
The registered nurse once worked for the Nevada City school and is now countywide coordinator of health and physical education for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.
“I had 20 kids on Ritalin, and they would come in to take their meds holding a Mountain Dew,” she said.
Turner said she and concerned parents couldn’t get the school out of the contract for the soda machine, but succeeded in getting it stocked with beverages containing less sugar and fewer calories. Studies show drinking carbonated beverages can cause weight gain and increased rates of diabetes, Turner said.
“It’s outrageous that this stuff is allowed in elementary and middle schools,” Turner said, adding that she is looking for people interested in removing the machines from schools.
Her attitude may reflect a growing trend. Efforts are being made at the state level to ban soft drinks from school vending machines, and local school principals don’t blame Turner for her stance.
Although revenues from vending machines fund a lot of student activities, many local school districts already have restrictions on what’s sold from machines on their campuses.
“Fruit drinks, Gatorade, Brisk tea, lemon tea and water are all right,” said Joe Limov, principal of Seven Hills School.
Pepsi Blue, which recently appeared in the school’s vending machine, is not, he said. “My concern is that it’s a carbonated drink and it needs to come out,” Limov said.
At Clear Creek School, “We just thought it would be a good idea” to offer only caffeine-free beverages, said Scott Lay, principal/superintendent.
A failed bill in the state Legislature would have limited the sale of beverages on school campuses to fruit-based drinks, water, sports drinks and milk – no Coke, no Pepsi – starting in 2004.
A new law limiting the sale of carbonated beverages for most of the school day at middle schools in a pilot nutrition program will take effect Jan. 1, 2004, contingent on funding.
Elementary school vending machines will not be able to sell any carbonated beverages at all, said Steve Henderson, legislative representative with California’s Department of Education.
Soda machines are such moneymakers for schools that the California Teachers Association opposed the bill.
At Silver Springs High School, proceeds from the Pepsi machine help pay for rallies, field trips, community or civic projects, and the career fair, said Duane Triplett, Silver Springs’ administrator.
That school recently received $1,600 in proceeds, said Dianna Boyce, assistant account technician for the Nevada Joint Union High School District.
Proceeds from the Coca Cola machine at Silver Springs – only $174 so far this year, Boyce said – help defray the cost of cafeteria staff from Bear River High School who make lunches for Silver Springs’ students.
At Clear Creek School, the $600-to-$700 annual income from the soda machine funds the eighth-grade graduation celebration.
“Last year, it paid for the entire eighth-grade trip to Squaw Valley,” Lay said.
Lyman Gilmore School received a scoreboard four years ago with proceeds from its soda machine, said Principal Stephanie Pope. The vending machine is stocked and run by a private company. Same for Seven Hills School, which also received a scoreboard a few years ago, but now receives none of the proceeds from the vending machines.
At Nevada Union High School, soda machines bring in $10,000 to $15,000 a year for student activities and salaries for student store workers, said Claudia Kinseth, student activities director.
Magnolia Intermediate School partially pays for student planners from soda machine proceeds, said Principal Dave Rosenquist.
Although the bill to ban carbonated beverages failed to pass the state Senate Education Committee in May, the country’s second largest school district – the Los Angeles Unified School District – opted to ban sodas on its middle-school campuses.
“I’ve been talking to other school nurses, and we would love to get something like this done,” Turner said.
“We’re not too far away from that now,” said John Halverson, superintendent for the Nevada City Elementary School District. “I’m all for it. You are what you eat and what you drink.”
But students may be one step ahead of nurses, principals and parents.
“Water is a huge seller at the high schools,” Kinseth said.
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