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Schools in the Eastern Panhandle dump sugary soft drinks

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — While sugary soft drinks are under attack at schools across the state, the eight counties of the Eastern Panhandle are practically a pop-free zone.

No Coke, no Pepsi, no Mountain Dew — the school vending machines there dispense bottled water, low-fat milk and fruit juice.

"It's something that they feel real proud of," said John Hough, executive director for the Regional Education Service Agency VIII in Martinsburg.

Statewide, 20 counties have banned the sugary drinks from their schools. In addition, the state Board of Education adopted tough health standards for schools as laid out by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Rick Goff, executive director of the state Office of Child Nutrition hopes that's a step toward a statewide ban on the drinks, but some counties are resistant.

The vending machines can provide revenue for cash-strapped schools, making a ban unpopular with some schools.

Last year, Charleston's Capital High School collected about $26,000 from the vending machines, according to Principal Clinton Giles. That money goes toward paper, field trip expenses and new technology.

"That revenue is absolutely essential if we are to provide students with a world-class education," Giles said.

Some Eastern Panhandle educators agree.

Moorefield High School Principal Douglas Hines said his Hardy County school has meant less money for supplies like chalk and envelopes.

But Goff said the health benefits outweigh the revenue concerns.

"We're actually balancing our school budgets on the backs of our kids' health," he said. "We're really sending them mixed messages. Kids can read between the lines."

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com


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