Kansas schools have no business letting giant corporations peddle candy and sugary drinks to their students, according to a recent report by Kansas Action for Children.
"It's not good for kids," said Gary Brunk, executive director at Kansas Action for Children.
KAC released a report last week, showing that teenagers who drink a can of non-diet soda a day are likely to add 10 pounds to their normal body weight in a year.
A 12-oz. can of non-diet soda contains about 12 teaspoons of sugar.
The report, "Vending Machines in Kansas Schools: Jeopardizing the Student Body," noted that today's teenagers drink two to three times more soft drinks than their counterparts of 20 years ago. They're also drinking 40 percent less milk.
The shift in consumption coincides with increases in childhood obesity.
The report found that vending machines are in 98 percent of the nation's high schools, 89 percent of the junior highs and 43 percent of the elementary schools.
Most of the machines in the high schools and junior high schools are under exclusive contracts with a soft-drink company, usually Coke or Pepsi.
Brunk urged legislators to enact laws aimed at:
¢ Giving parents a say in the kinds of snacks sold in their children's schools.
¢ Denying students access to vending machines during school hours.
¢ Requiring vending companies to also offer bottled water and fruit juices at competitive prices.
¢ Discouraging student awards that involve food.
In Lawrence, school officials adopted polices aimed at curbing candy and soft-drink sales two years ago.
"We don't have vending machines in the elementary schools - except in the breakrooms," said Julie Boyle, a spokeswoman for Lawrence public schools. "In the junior highs, they're not turned on until after school."
- On the street: Should Kansas schools allow corporations to sell soda and candy in vending machines?
- KAC report: Vending Machines in Kansas Schools (pdf)
- Kansas Action for Children
- School districts struggle with vending-machine contracts (11-02-04)
- Board opts for district-operated vending deal (10-26-04)
Students at Lawrence and Free State high schools have access to vending machines throughout the day. But the choices include bottled water, fruit juices and sport drinks. At least half of the beverages are non-carbonated.
Candy bars are sold through the student-run stores in the high schools. The stores also sell granola bars, baked chips, muffins and cookies.
A committee is reviewing whether to add to the policies' restrictions.
"We're continually striving to meet a higher standard," said Paula Murrish, food services director for Lawrence public schools.
The district does not have an exclusive contract with a soft-drink company. School officials control what's sold in the vending machines."I think it's safe to say Lawrence is already doing much of what's recommended in the report," said Brunk, who lives in Lawrence.
Late last year, the Kansas Beverage Assn. adopted a set of voluntary guidelines, limiting the kinds of beverages to be sold on school property during school hours.
The effectiveness of the guidelines remains to be seen.