The Los Angeles school district will ban all carbonated soft drinks from its schools in a move to curb junk food and fight childhood obesity.
The school board of the 748,000-student district voted unanimously last week to phase out all such drinks sold in its middle and high schools by January 2004. Sodas had already been removed from the district’s elementary schools, and California Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation this year to ban such drinks and junk food products in elementary schools statewide beginning in 2004.
Some said the move on the part of the nation’s second-largest district could inspire a national trend, as districts look for ways to instill healthy eating habits.
Others argued that the board’s vote could deny schools both business partnerships and significant revenue. Los Angeles high schools have earned average revenues of about $39,000 a year from soft drink sales, and middle schools have averaged $14,000.
“It’s been an ongoing national discussion,” said Michael Carr, a spokesman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals in Reston, Va. His group cautions that local boards should remember to find ways to replace the money for the academic and extracurricular activities often subsidized by such sales.
The measure was proposed, Los Angeles educators say, to help combat the growing problem of childhood obesity and related health problems, such as diabetes.
Superintendent Roy Romer, who has diabetes, supported the move. “We ought to be very careful to look at the diet we promote, as well as the exercise,” he told the panel before its vote on Aug. 27.
The National Soft Drink Association says its data show that students’ soft drink consumption is “vastly overstated.” The Washington-based group says school officials are unfairly targeting soft drinks and should instead be encouraging exercise to combat childhood obesity.