California will have the nation's most restrictive rules governing
soda sales in schools if the governor approves a bill passed by the state
legislature on Thursday.
In an effort to address a fast-growing childhood obesity epidemic, the
state Senate voted to ban soda and sugary drinks in elementary school and
limit their sale in junior high schools starting next summer. The assembly had
approved the bill earlier this month.
Although a spokesperson in Gov. Gray Davis' office said he had no position,
backers of the bill -- sponsored by state Sen. Debra Ortiz, D-Sacramento --
said he was expected to sign it.
Limiting soda on campus is the latest in a series of efforts to make
classroom offerings healthier. Oakland, Berkeley and Los Angeles school
districts have already limited soda sales.
The San Francisco Unified School District took things a step further this
year and instituted a nutrition policy that requires healthier cafeteria and
snack bar foods and, by early next year, will rid vending machines of candy
Also on Thursday, state Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell was at San
Francisco's Aptos Elementary School to challenge every school administrator to
increase nutrition education and physical education, and offer healthier food.
The superintendent and state legislature will recognize schools that meet the
challenge, and the most innovative districts will get $2,000 apiece as part of
a grant from a New Hampshire-based dairy company.
The statewide efforts are aimed at slimming down California's children, an
estimated 30 percent of whom are overweight or at risk of being overweight. In
addition, three out of every four students is unfit, and in some districts
almost half the children are too fat, according to the California Center for
Public Health Advocacy.
"This is going to be a long-term process whereby parents and school and
communities all need to come together to provide a healthy environment for
children. As we're starting to say around here, our children learn not only by
what we tell them but by what we sell them," said Harold Goldstein, executive
director of the nonprofit center.
The ban approved Thursday by the Senate limits elementary schools to
serving milk, water, and juice drinks that are at least half fruit juice with
no added sweeteners.
Junior highs and middle school administrators can also offer sports drinks
during school hours. They also can turn on soda vending machines after school
for fund-raising efforts or sell soda at events before or after school.
The bill won't prevent students from bringing sodas from home. It also
doesn't affect high schools.
Michael Butler, who works on legislation for the California State PTA, said
the bill wouldn't have passed if it banned soda at all levels.
"The high schools get a lot of revenue from vending machines, and I think
there's a sense on the part of some lawmakers that high school-age kids ought
to have some choice in the matter," he said.
If the governor signs the bill this fall, the new law will take effect July
Ortiz says the soda ban is just one piece of the larger battle against
"Now we have to figure out how we improve the quality of physical education
and empower communities and help parents to alter home habits," she said.
"That's the next step in this huge epidemic."
E-mail Kim Severson at firstname.lastname@example.org.