RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Considering that everyone is talking about the epidemic in childhood obesity—including the first lady, who is working to make the problem disappear in a generation—it may come as some surprise to learn that there has been an 88 percent reduction in calories from not-so-good-for-you beverages like sodas and sports drinks sold in schools across the country since 2004.
But that’s just what former President Bill Clinton announced yesterday. His statement comes three years after the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, teamed with the three top soft drink companies to voluntarily remove sweetened soft drinks from schools across the country, in response to the growing threat of lawsuits and state legislation. Sodas have been replaced by “lower-calorie, nutritious beverage options in age-appropriate portions,” according to the American Beverage Association, the trade association for many beverage companies.
THE DETAILS: Shipments of full-calorie soft drinks to schools declined by 95 percent between the first semester of the 2004–2005 school year and the first semester of 2009–2010. Juice drink shipments decreased by 94 percent during that period. In fact, sales of all drinks sold to high schools, which have most of the school beverage vending machines, have dropped dramatically, about 72 percent, in the same period. That includes healthy drinks like water. While bottled water is now the most popular drink sold in schools, it still declined by about 15 percent.
President Clinton was thrilled with the outcome. “Even a person as optimistic as I am, I have to admit I am stunned by the results,” he said during a press event focusing on the change.
Health professionals, however, were a little less enthusiastic. While acknowledging that the beverage association had made “great progress,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said, “There is still work to be done.”
Read on for tips on choosing healthy beverages for your kids.