Taking soda pop out of school

Wednesday, August 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

School districts across the country are trying to tackle higher rates of childhood obesity by closing the tap on soda in schools, including one in our area.

News on Six anchor Terry Hood tells us some Oklahoma students are trying to get the fizz back in their vending machines. This is Tahlequah Public Schools first soda pop-free school year. And some students aren't bubbling over with enthusiasm. If Tahlequah students want to quench their thirst between classes, they'll have to do without the joy of Pepsi. The machines are there, but the soda pop is not.

Paul Hurst, Tahlequah Superintendent: "The change of vending came about from some concerns in our community particularly from our medical people over childhood diabetes, childhood obesity, major dental concerns with sugar content acid content of carbonated soft drinks." So the school changed it's contract with Pepsi, and now the machines are loaded with "healthier" Pepsi products, like fruit drinks and water.

While some students are signing petitions to get pops back, others are indifferent. Rachel Radenour, Tahlequah junior: "It doesn't make any difference. I mean you can always stop before school and get a pop or get a pop after school if you're really dying to have a pop." Tahlequah Public Schools will be paying for better student health. They’ll be losing the money from soda pops that help pay for student activities.

Paul Hurst, "our activity program is by large dependent on these things so yes it will have a negative effect on that." And considering the fact that the candy machines are still firmly in place, some students question whether there will be any positive effects at all. Ian Fillmore, Tahlequah senior: "I think it’s a little bit hypocritical that they don't have the sodas but they still have the junk food.” Another student, Samantha Granger, "they have Fruitworks in there it has as much sugar as pop does."

Paul Hurst: "Once again it contains no acid and no caffeine which are other health related issues. I think the sugar quantity maybe slightly less although you make a point that there is sugar in them. One step at a time."

The largest school districts in the Tulsa area all have vending contracts to supplement their budgets. Most of those deals are with Pepsi. Tulsa Public Schools has a five year contract worth $1.5-million a year. Jenks and Broken Arrow each have 10-year deals. Jenks earns $350,000 a year. Broken Arrow got an up front payment of nearly $2-million and receives a portion of the district's annual sales. Owasso also has a ten-year deal worth about $105,000 a year.

And Union has a five-and-a-half year contract with Coke, worth about $450,000 each year.

Those school districts say the money is often used to help pay for student activities.