School vending guidelines adopted

Lawrence school rules already limit kinds of beverages allowed

For the past seven years, Paula Murrish has served as the food services director for Lawrence public schools.

She said as long as she’s been with the district there’s been a ban on beverage vending machines in elementary schools. Junior high schools have vending machines, but they’re not turned on during school hours.

And last year, high school students got new rules regarding their options. Now, at least 50 percent of beverages sold in the machines are noncarbonated drinks.

The rest of the state now seems poised to catch up to the Lawrence school district.

On Tuesday, the Kansas Beverage Assn. announced the adoption of the beverage vending guidelines put forth by the American Beverage Assn. last August. The rules limit what drinks can be sold at vending machines on school property during school hours.

Murrish credits the Lawrence school board for the policy already in place locally, which meets or exceeds the new recommended standards.

Free State High School senior Nathan Desetti makes a purchase Tuesday at one of the Coke machines at the high school. Concessions will be made by the vending companies to offer healthier drinks, although Lawrence schools already have options other than soda.

“In reading those (new guidelines) we felt we were already up to standard and have been for several years,” she said.

The KBA policy allows elementary students access to vending machines with only water and 100 percent juice drinks.

Junior high students will only be able to buy water, 100 percent juice drinks, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks and low-calorie juice drinks during school hours. They will have access to full-calorie soft drinks and full-calorie juice drinks, but only after school hours.

High school students will have no restrictions on what they can purchase, but only if less than half of the beverages available are soft drinks.

These guidelines are only suggestions and compliance with them is entirely voluntary.

State Rep. Jason Watkins, R-Wichita, said if the industry did not use these guidelines to self-regulate, the Legislature would have to look at turning the suggestions into law. That’s something he said won’t be necessary now.

“Pressure from peers will keep the program working, ” he said.

Ron Hein, executive director of the Kansas Beverage Assn., said he is confident the majority of beverage suppliers will comply.

“Our members meet face to face with parents, school officials and community leaders, and we’ve heard firsthand their concerns about childhood obesity. Because we value these relationships, we will continue to work closely with them to do what is best for our young people,” Hein said.