Student Well-Being

Health Update

By Darcia Harris Bowman — October 03, 2001 3 min read

States Consider Forbidding Snack, Soda Sales

Armed with new data on the increasing level of childhood obesity in the United States, at least a dozen states are taking aim at the lucrative business of selling soft drinks and snacks in public schools.

Across the country, state legislators have introduced bills that would ban or limit the sales of sugary drinks, candy, or fatty snack foods in K-12 schools. Driving the spate of legislation is a wide range of pediatric-health concerns, particularly a sharp increase in obesity.

“We don’t allow kids to smoke in schools, we have zero tolerance for violence in schools, and I believe this falls into the same category,” said Minnesota Rep. Gene P. Pelowski, who has introduced a House bill on behalf of the state’s dentists that would prohibit the sale of soft drinks on school property.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 13 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds and 14 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds are considered overweight, based on a formula that considers age, weight, and height.

Proposals to cut soft drink and snack sales at schools have provoked controversy, however. In some of the states where such legislative efforts are under way, school boards and administrators have mounted strong challenges to protect what has become a valuable revenue source for schools.

The tenor of the debate was particularly fierce in California, where a bill was introduced in this legislative session that would have banned sugary drinks and placed strict nutritional standards on all foods sold in schools. After intense lobbying by groups that included the Association of California School Administrators, the bill was scaled back so that the restrictions are limited to elementary schools and to middle and high schools that volunteer for a 10-school pilot program.

It was a bittersweet victory for some of the education groups that opposed the original bill.

“We’re in a position where the state has said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to give you as much money, so get innovative,’ and that’s what we did, and now we’re being attacked for it,” said Brett McFaddin, a legislative advocate for the administrators’ association. “We know what is being sold to the kids is not the best, but state funding for schools has dropped ... over the last 10 years. At the end of the day, districts are accountable to their constituents, and they must have balanced budgets.”

Minnesota schools raise about $40 million a year through soft drink sales, said Dick Anderson, the executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association in Saint Peter, which opposes the bill introduced in that state by Rep. Pelowski. “Schools didn’t just dive into this because they said, ‘Look, here’s a lucrative opportunity,’” Mr. Anderson said. “Most of this revenue is turned around and poured back into student activities, which one would think should have been provided by the state legislature. You could make a case that if the legislature mandates schools give up this revenue, they should be refunded for that.”

The National Soft Drink Association rejects any direct link between consumption of such beverages in schools and childhood weight problems. The Washington-based group is keeping an eye on 12 states that are considering some sort of restriction on soft drink sales in schools, including California, Hawaii, Minnesota, Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.

“These folks are well-intentioned, but they’re misguided,” said Shawn McBride, a spokesman for the soft drink group. “We have a problem with pediatric obesity and obesity of adults in general, but it’s developed over the last 20 or 30 years, and it’s largely because we are a more sedentary society.”

“I think we’re always looking for a quick fix,” Mr. McBride added, “but soft drinks aren’t the real problem.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Student Health & Safety
In this Spotlight, assess what the data says and how educators can play a part in protecting their students, and more.
Student Well-Being Nation's Pediatricians Call for All Students, Staff to Wear Masks in School
Countering recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the physicians say even vaccinated students should wear face coverings
5 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., on Aug. 24, 2020.
A sidewalk-chalk drawing reminds students to wear a mask as they arrive for the first day of school last August at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
Student Well-Being The Pandemic and Politics Made Life Especially Rough for LGBTQ Youth, Survey Finds
More than 80 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds who say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning said 2020 was very hard.
2 min read
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. Students and school district officials in Utah are outraged after a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week. A rally was held the following day in response to show support for the LGBTQ community.
People rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School on April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. The day before a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP
Student Well-Being Kids Are Behind on Routine Vaccinations. Here's What Schools Can Do About It
Schools should prod families to get their children caught up on shots before classes begin, public health experts say.
4 min read
Digital generated image of many syringes with vaccine making a decline diagram.
Andriy Onufriyenko/Moment/Getty + Gina Tomko/Education Week