June 02, 2003
You'll Have To Pry This Can Out Of My Cold, Dead Hand

Emily Jones (Give War a Chance) blogs about a California state senate bill to forbid public schools to serve soft drinks to students. I'm not sure she's entirely right in asking "Where do they get off telling kids they can't have soda?" Grade-schoolers are hardly old enough to decide these things for themselves, and parents aren't in a position to enforce their own rules from a distance. Still, I agree that it's hardly a state issue.

This is just one more area where private schools have the advantage. They can decide this on a school-by-school basis, and parents who care enough about it one way or the other can always send their kids to another school. In the last two years, I've either taught at or visited a dozen private schools in the northeast. All but one or two have a no-soda policy in the school cafeteria. (Most do not allow the students to leave campus for lunch.) The drink dispensers offer only water, milk, lemonade, and various juices and Koolaid-type drinks. I believe one school sold canned sodas, but only the sugar-free varieties. I assume most parents like it that way. Caffeine doesn't seem to be the problem, since I've never noticed any attempt to keep students -- even grade-schoolers -- away from the coffeepots and tea paraphernalia. Two schools seem to have come up with the same compromise independently: there's a vending machine full of Coke and other depraved delights, but you have to walk way across campus to find it hidden behind the gym. I generally brought a can of Classic Coke from home, and no one objected.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 02, 2003 12:16 AM

There's been considerable comment on this in my local (SF) press, and yet no one has mentioned the obvious solution: keep the vending machines, but require that they contain diet sodas only.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 2, 2003 02:51 AM

Why does everyone automatically assume that sugar soft drinks are bad for kids? The "lemonade" they sell is undoubtedly just as full of sugar as the Coke. It's actually a pathetic excuse for an anti-globalization, anti-good taste, neo-Puritan campaign. If it feels like it's hurting the Earth, it must be bad for kids. And if they like it, well, that's obviously taboo. Coke and Pepsi have spent billions finding out exactly what people like to drink. Then the neo-Puritans make sure they can't have it.

Posted by: Robert Speirs on June 2, 2003 08:59 AM

Not to mention the jury's still out on whether or not things like asparatame is better for kids than sugar. Personally, I'd rather my kids have a caffiene-free coke, than a diet one.

Posted by: amy on June 3, 2003 02:55 PM

Ah yes, the foodists. Still saying salt is always bad. That refined sugar is always bad (what, I should by sugar cane for my coffee?) That eggs are always bad.

And don't try to fool them - *'No Matter What the Data Say'* shows the attitude.

And Mass. public schools ban peanuts. No PB&J sandwiches, Snickers bars cause for expulsion...

Posted by: John Anderson on June 3, 2003 06:33 PM

Some good reasons for keeping soft drinks out of schools -- particular the lower grades:

1. Take a look at the latest figures on childhood obesity. Then think of the lower calorie requirements of young children, think of what your kids drink at home when you're around and then remember how many hours a day they're out of your personal care.

2. School districts across America are getting "hooked" on the money they receive from vending machines and fast food companies. The only way to insure that we'll never hear "our school district just CAN'T AFFORD to rid of junk food" is to keep these companies out of the schools.

Posted by: jerseycityjoan on June 4, 2003 10:29 AM

John Anderson: Peanut allergy does actually kill people. Often. Anaphylactic shock is not fun.

Amy: I know that there are concerns about aspartame, but they compare at all with what we most certainly know about sugars? I wonder.

And if you can manage to get through a day w/o caffeine, I'm envious.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on June 4, 2003 12:53 PM