In May, the American Beverage Association announced plans to voluntarily remove excessively sugary drinks from school vending machines. Previously, the ABA had been dogged by parental complaints, state-level policy changes, and potential lawsuits aimed at school-bought junk food. So Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, considers the move about as voluntary “as a shotgun wedding.” Still, it was enough to stop CSPI from filing its own lawsuit.
Now, the health-conscious will just have to wait. The deadline for full implementation of the ABA measure—which requires that individual districts voluntarily renegotiate contracts with vendors—is 2009-10. Most, if not all, machines in elementary and middle schools will then offer limited-size servings of water, low-fat milk, and juice, while in high schools, sports drinks and diet sodas—opposed by many nutrition advocates—will also be available.
So what if groups like the CSPI didn’t have to wait? What would an “ideal” vending machine offer in 2006-07? Based on lists of approved beverages posted on several of these groups’ Web sites, what used to be a “soda” machine would look something like what you see here.
- Plain, seltzer, or sparkling water without added caloric sweeteners
- Flavored and non-flavored low-fat or fat-free milk
- Soy and rice milk with no artificial sweeteners
- Fruit juices that don’t contain added caloric sweeteners
- Fruit-based juice drinks that contain no less than 50 percent fruit juices
- Vegetable juices that don’t contain added caloric sweeteners
Graphic by Matt Collins