Soda Ban May Burst Bubble; Lausd Students
Could Be Un-PEPSI Generation
By Helen Gao\ Staff Writer
Irking Coca-Cola with what could become a national trend, Los Angeles school
board members plan to vote this week on whether to ban sales of soft drinks
throughout the nation's second largest school district.
Backed by board members Genethia Hudley Hayes and Julie Korenstein, Marlene
Canter has led the groundbreaking and controversial campaign to create an
Instead of soda, kids would be offered water, milk and drinks that have at
least 50 percent juice and no added sweeteners.
"(Soft drinks) have no nutritional value. They are full of sugar and
caffeine," said Canter, who represents the Westside. "There is an
obesity epidemic going on. I just felt that for the well-being of the whole
child ... this is a no-brainer."
A ban on soda in schools in the nation's second largest district will likely
spark similar movements nationwide, which is why Coca- Cola has threatened to
end its sponsorship of the LAUSD's Academic Decathlon events and why many
schools whose extra-curricular activities are funded by revenue from soda sales
on campus are worried.
During the lunch rush at North Hollywood High School last week, sentiment
among students clearly ran against banning sodas.
Students jammed the school's quadrangle, many clutching a soda to wash down
chips, cookies, pizza and occasionally salads.
"You know adults get their coffee in the morning. Kids have soda. That's
their kick," said ninth-grader Mia Sharrigan, who was sipping a Pepsi.
Under Cantor's proposal to be voted on by the board Tuesday, the soft drink
ban would take effect in January 2004, the year the state will start
implementing SB 19, which prohibits the sale of sodas at middle schools during
certain hours and establishes higher nutrition standards for students.
As part of her proposal, Canter is also asking the district to boost
nutrition education and create a working group to improve physical education.
Already district-operated school cafeterias, which sell $4.5 million worth of
sodas each year, have agreed to take soft drinks off their menus starting in
September. The move has prompted Coca- Cola to threaten to pull its annual
$20,000 sponsorship of the district's Academic Decathlon scholastic competition.
If the LAUSD, which has more than 736,000 students, adopts a soft drinks ban,
children's health advocates say it will set the stage for other school districts
to follow the lead.
"If this passes here, we will see a ripple effect," said Jacqueline
Domac, a health teacher at Venice High School, where administrators have been
working for the past three years to phase out junk food. "Everyone is
looking. If we can do it here, anyone can."
In California, Berkeley and the Oakland unified school districts have already
banned the sale of soft drinks on their campuses, but no school district the
size of the LAUSD is known to be addressing the issue, according to the
California Center for Public Health Advocacy.
While health advocates applaud Canter's proposal, school administrators
expressed mixed feelings. Middle and high schools have long relied on soda
vending machine contracts to fund a host of student body activities, sports
programs, equipment, uniforms, and even marquees.
"The problem at the high school level is without the sale of soft
drinks, we cannot support our athletic programs," said Cleveland High
School Principal Allan Jay Weiner, whose school generates $30,000 to $35,000 per
year in revenues from selling Coca-Cola products. The money helps the school
fund 28 different sports.
"What happens is if the ban goes through and we can't make up the sales,
we will have to start canceling different teams," Weiner said.
And if after-school athletics are canceled, wouldn't students be worse off
physically, asked another Valley high school administrator who wanted to remain
"If we kill high school athletics because we can't support them
financially, you are going to have a bigger problem," she said. "Many
of these kids are not required to take a PE class, but they become part of an
Jerry Horowitz, principal at Byrd Middle School, supports Canter's proposal
but believes that the ban should be extended to cover all school facilities,
including teachers' lounges and the district headquarters. The proposal only
targets sales of soft drinks to students.
"I really think all soft drinks that are non-nutritious should not be
available at any school sites," Horowitz said. "If we are fostering
healthy diets, how can we have the superintendent drink a Coke in an office and
say it's bad for kids at Byrd?"
At North Hollywood High School, where students consume some 2,160 bottles of
water and sodas on a hot day, some reacted to Canter's proposal as another
example of adults trying to run their lives.
"Half of the people here are 18. Shouldn't they be able to decide what
they want to drink?" ninth-grader Jenia Tsipenyuk protested.
And besides, if the school doesn't sell soft drinks, students say they will
bring them from home or worse, break rules to go off campus to buy them.
"It defeats the whole purpose," said freshman Michelle Gonzalez.
Others students, such as senior Fatima Ramirez, are for the ban.
"I think it's good to be healthy and not drink too much soda," she
Opponents of Canter's proposal doubt that eliminating soft drinks on school
campuses will make a significant dent in childhood and adolescent obesity, which
has reached epidemic proportions in the nation.
A 1998 study by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 40
percent of 900 LAUSD students surveyed are obese. Research has also shown that
obesity disproportionately impacts African- American and Latino students, who
are more likely than others to be uninsured.
School board member Mike Lansing said to address the obesity epidemic, the
district must involve school administrators and other stakeholders to develop a
comprehensive fitness plan, instead of rushing ahead with a "Band-Aid"
measure to ban soft drinks.
"It's trying to fight a wildfire with a water gun. It makes great
headlines, but I don't think it's going to be the answer."
And if the school district eliminates sodas, shouldn't it ban other junk
food? he asked. "Where do you stop after sodas? When do you say 'no' to
chips and candy bars?"
Lansing would like to see a plan that includes an analysis of food patterns
at home, nutrition education for parents and a serious look at improving the
district's physical education program.
Canter has provided few details on the education component of her proposal,
but has said it will cover both students and parents.
A report released this month by the Los Angeles County Task Force on Children
and Youth Physical Fitness found PE programs at local public schools woefully
inadequate. The report documented outdated facilities, large exercise classes
and a lack of emphasis on fitness in general.
Currently, public elementary schools do not offer any structured physical
education classes. In high school, students are only required to take PE for two
Sean McBride, spokesman for the National Soft Drinks Association, argues the
key to fitness is a balanced diet and exercise, not banning sodas.
"The answer from our perspective is to educate people to eat a variety
of foods in moderation and to exercise at least 30 minutes a day," he said.
"Unfortunately, people are looking for a silver bullet and quick
Domac of Venice High School defends Canter's proposal, saying it's a major
first step toward improving student health.
"Eighty percent of the students who become obese during high school stay
that way the rest of their lives. These are formative years," she said.
"We have to pay attention to their eating habits now."
Randall Delling, principal of North Hollywood High School, expects his campus
will eventually adjust to juice machines, if the soft drink ban goes through.
"I think initially there would be a drop (in sales). As time goes on,
people would adapt and adjust to it, and it would rise again," he said.
Domac, who is interviewing alternative beverage vendors, said one has offered
a higher profit margin than what Coca-Cola did on its juice products. By writing
confidentiality clauses into contracts, Domac said Coca-Cola has prevented
schools from comparing the terms of their agreements.
Some school officials have expressed concern that juice and other healthy
beverages may not sell as well as sodas, resulting in less money for
But regardless of whether schools lose money or not over the potential
change, Domac is supportive of a soft drink ban.
"Economics should never take precedence over the health of
students," she said. "It's never the responsibility of our students to
subsidize public education." -ST_KEY- CALIFORNIA - ISSUE - HEALTH - DIET -
SCHOOL - OBESITY - STUDENT - SOFT DRINK - SODA - SALE - PRODUCT - BAN - CAMPAIGN
- MARLENE CANTER - POLITICS - LOS ANGELES - LAUSD - VALLEY - REACTION -
COCA-COLA - THREAT - END - SPONSORSHIP - ACADEMIC DECATHLON - FORECAST
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June 28, 2015