When I was in elementary school, the idea of vending machines on campus was ludicrous. The junior high school I attended actually had a juice box vending machine. I remember thinking how unfair it was that we didn’t have a soda machine on campus. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, they were all over the campus, and everyone had a soda with lunch. This was before the obesity epidemic became daily news and a household term. Today, approximately 30 percent of American children are overweight and at risk for obesity.
It is estimated that 45 percent of beverages consumed in schools are carbonated soft drinks. Nationwide, carbonated soft drinks represent 28 percent of all beverages consumed. In the late ’90s, the average teenager consumed about two 12 ounce sodas per day. Although this seems like a conservative estimate, it still adds up. At a cost of about 150 calories each, the weight added up as those teenagers grew into adults. In the last couple of years, school districts in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City have been working to restrict what could be sold in schools. Activist organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest attempted to work with beverage companies to restrict the kinds of drinks they would sell to children, citing the increase in childhood obesity as their cause.
Recently, a major breakthrough was made in the fight to decrease soda consumption when the American Beverage Association struck an agreement with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to completely pull high calorie soft drinks from all American schools by 2010. This is big news. The American Beverage Association represents Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Cadbury-Schwepps. They control 87 percent of the public and private school market.
Starting next year, the soda companies will be drafting a plan to phase out the sodas and artificially sweetened drinks from schools. According to the press release, in 2009, 75 percent of American schools will be compliant with a new standard that allows only water, 100 percent fruit juice, and low fat milks to be sold in schools. High schools will still be allowed to sell some sports drinks and diet sodas to their students.
As students at Cal Poly, we won’t be affected by this change at all. However, carbonated soft drinks are available at every eating establishment on campus as well as in vending machines conveniently located in almost every building on campus. College-aged men and women are consuming between 16 and 29 ounces of soda each day, the majority being of full-caloried versions. The sugar in a bottle of soda is equivalent to 17 teaspoons of sugar. If you have a soda for a snack, you could be replacing calories in your diet that you would be getting from a more nutritious snack.
Jessica and Robin are senior nutrition students and Peer Health Educators. They can be reached at email@example.com