Declaring war on soda in schools

2012-11-12T07:34:00Z 2012-11-12T22:50:22Z Declaring war on soda in schoolsBy Aisha Sultan asultan@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8300 stltoday.com

My second-grader's class was celebrating reaching a goal of great behavior and voted to have a "Sip and Read" party at school. The teacher send us an email saying they could bring a special drink, including soda, to drink while they read a book in class.

It was the third time, just this year, that my two elementary-school children had been allowed to bring soda as a treat to class. 

Studies have tied the consumption of sugary drinks to the overall obesity epidemic. This is especially true for children, who consume a significant portion of their daily empty calories in the form of sugary drinks. New research in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that replacing such drinks can stem the crisis of childhood obesity in this country. 

Unhealthy beverages remain available to one-third of public elementary school students. Among secondary schools, Missouri is among the worst states in the country when it to access to soda in schools.   

A recent report in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found healthier trends in other U.S. elementary schools:  

Access to all unhealthy beverages in elementary schools peaked in 2007–08, when 47 percent of public elementary students had access to them, and steadily declined to 33 percent of students in 2010–11.

The percentage of public elementary students who had access to sugar-sweetened beverages decreased from 17 percent in 2006–07 to 12 percent in 2010–11.

The percentage of public elementary school students who could buy only healthy beverages outside of school meals increased from 10 percent in 2006–07 to 21 percent in 2010–11.

The study looked at the availability of competitive beverages in U.S. public elementary schools for five academic years, from 2006–07 to 2010–11.

Missouri is on the wrong end of these encouraging trends. We need to share the scope of this public health crisis with our children's teachers and school officials. Offering soda as a reward to elementary school children contradicts the very message we should be teaching them about making smart choices about what they eat and drink. 

Aisha is the Home and Family editor at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @AishaS or on Facebook at facebook.com/aishasultan.

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Aisha Sultan

Aisha covered education and breaking news for nearly ten years before joining the Lifestyle staff where she writes a "Dirty Laundry" parenting column. She is the home and family editor and wastes too much time on Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter @AishaS.

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