August 28th, 2002
Schools to End Soda Sales; L.A. Unified: The Soft Drinks Won't be Allowed on Campuses Starting in 2004.
By Erika Hayasaki
Los Angeles Times
The bubbles burst Tuesday night for students who drink soda on campuses of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The Board of Education voted unanimously to ban the sale of the soft drinks at all of the district’s 677 schools in an effort to improve the health of 736,000 students.
“This is absolutely the right thing to do,” said Board President Caprice Young. “But I wish we could have chosen an implementation plan that would have made it less painful for the schools.”
More than 200 middle and high schools in the Los Angeles district now have individual contracts with Coca-Cola Co. or PepsiCo Inc. for vending machines or sales in student stores. Those campuses will have until January 2004 to replace carbonated sugary beverages with water, juice, milk or sports drinks during school hours. That could cost them thousands of dollars, because many Los Angeles schools earn substantial revenue from soda sales.
For example, Jefferson High School made $88,342 last year, and Belmont High School netted $50,742, according to the district. The profits go toward student funds for school dances, sports, clubs or field trips.
By a 4-3 vote, board members rejected a proposal by Young and board member Mike Lansing that would have required the district to come up with a plan to replace the funds. Another proposal by Lansing that the board set aside $3 million out of next year’s budget for the same purpose also lost.
Board member Marlene Canter, who spearheaded the soda ban motion, objected to tacking a financial commitment to the initiative.
“We don’t yet know what the impact of this is going to be, and we’re jumping the gun by assuming strife,” she said.
About 50 students and teachers gathered outside the Downtown Business Magnet High School, where the board was meeting, to support the soda ban. They taped signs to the wall that read: “Loyalty to Education, Not to Coca Cola” and “Don’t Brand Our Kids.”
“It’s wrong to assume that most teens don’t care what they put into their body,” said Raul Hernandez, 17, a student at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. “I play basketball, and we want something other than soda. It just makes you more thirsty, and it tastes nasty.”
Rosemary Lee, a teacher at Logan Street Elementary School, also wanted an end to soda sales in the district.
“It’s a health issue. I have kindergartners who are 90 pounds at 4 or 5 years old. I have kids who come to school with a soda for breakfast,” she said.
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky addressed the board, commending it for “taking steps today that, I think, will have ramifications all across the country.”
“When you hear people say this is going to cost you some dollars out of the school uniform account, I am very sympathetic to that,” he said. “However, the costs to them for the rest of their lives is much deeper.”
The motion was co-sponsored by board members Canter, Genethia Hudley-Hayes and Julie Korenstein.
Lansing, who worried about the loss of school funds, suggested the action wasn’t the way to address health problems among the district’s children.
“I’m afraid, as too often, this is a little more about the hype than about addressing the obesity epidemic,” Lansing said. “To equate the banning of sodas with ending obesity is not adequate.”
Supt. Roy Romer, who during the meeting announced that he suffers from Type 2 diabetes, asked the board to continue to look at ways to address obesity and poor health.
“We ought to be very careful to look at the diet we promote, as well as the exercise,” he said. “I support the effort. It ought not be the end of it.”
When the motion passed, a crowd of supporters erupted in applause and cheers.
The idea to ban soda was inspired, in part, by recent reports spotlighting the obesity epidemic in Los Angeles, including a UCLA survey that found that 40% of 900 students in 14 Los Angeles Unified schools were obese.
Beginning in January 2004, schools may no longer sell soft drinks in vending machines or at student stores during school hours. Sodas may, however, be sold on campus starting 30 minutes after the school day is over, at events such as football games.
Coca-Cola Co. sells the soft drinks Fresca, Barq’s Root Beer and Sprite as well as Coke. Schools may replace sodas offered by Coca-Cola with non-soda products from the company, including Minute Maid juice, Powerade and Dasani water.
PepsiCo markets such soft drinks as Mountain Dew, Mug Root Beer and Slice as well as Pepsi. Schools may choose PepsiCo’s noncarbonated options, including Gatorade, Aquafina water and Tropicana or Dole juices.
L.A. Unified is the largest school district in the country to ban soft drinks. The 55,000-student Oakland Unified School District implemented a similar policy last year, banning sodas and junk food on its campuses.
Also beginning in 2004, public elementary schools in California will not be allowed to sell junk food or soda, as part of legislation signed into law last October by Gov. Gray Davis.
In May, a proposal to phase out the sale of sodas in all California schools was killed. Anti-soda legislation has also been unsuccessful in Maryland, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Texas prohibits the sale of junk food on all campuses.
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