A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2007;33 (4S): 209- S225) looks at the prevalence of sugared soft drinks in middle schools and high schools and reports on the just how much revenue soft drink sales generate for those schools. With adolescent overweight a current (and future) concern, you have to wonder if the revenues generated by soft drink sales are worth the long-term health costs.
The study focused on 345 middle schools and high schools in the 2004 and 2005 school years. As part of two ongoing surveys, data was gathered from school administrators as well as cafeteria workers and was collected anonymously to encourage honesty.
The study found that "the vast majority" of students have sugared soft drinks available to them through vending machines through most of the day as well as through the school-supplied cafeteria. Diet soft drinks were less available to students, while the most healthful option, bottled water, was available throughout the day through vending machines to less than 20% of middle school students and less than half of high school students.
Lunch time was the worst time for choosing healthy drinks, with nearly 50% of middle schoolers able to purchase sugared soft drinks at lunch, and nearly 60% of high schoolers. Diet soft drinks, interestingly, were the least available at lunch, while no information was available regarding whether students could purchase bottled water at lunch.
Given the market penetration of these products, you'd think that the schools would be generating a significant amount of income from their pouring rights contracts. Not so. On the average, high schools only generated about $6,000.00 per year. Total! Middle schools averaged only $500 per year.
What this means for you
One of the simple ways to eat healthy and have your kids eat healthy is to not drink soda. Soft drink companies bear some responsibility for the epidemic of obesity in both children and adults.
Given the significant impact that sugared soda has on weight, it seems clear that the benefits of removing sugared soft drinks from schools outweigh the financial advantages to the school district. Teach your children by example to reach for water before soda, and tell your school board to take the sale of sodas and sugared drinks out of the schools and make water easily available to your kids throughout the day.