- The American Beverage Association announced that its board of directors has approved a new school vending policy aimed at providing lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages to schools and limiting the availability of soft drinks in schools. The National Automatic Merchandising Association and major beverage suppliers have commended implementation of the voluntary guidelines.
"NAMA believes obesity is a very complex problem that requires we all work together. ABA should be applauded for its proactive approach, which shows that the beverage industry wants to be part of the solution, NAMA's communication director, Jackie Clark, told VT.
Under the new policy, the beverage industry will provide: elementary schools with only water and 100% juice; middle schools with only nutritious and/or lower calorie beverages, such as water, 100% juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks, and low-calorie juice drinks; no full-calorie soft drinks or full-calorie juice drinks with 5% or less juice until after school; and high schools with a variety of beverage choices, such as bottled water, 100% juice, sports drinks and juice drinks. No more than 50% of the vending selections will be soft drinks.
The ABA is asking beverage producers and school districts to implement the new policy as soon as possible. Where school beverage contracts already exist, the policy would be implemented when the contract expires or earlier if both parties agree. The success of the policy is dependent on voluntary implementation of it by individual beverage companies and by school officials. The policy will not supercede federal, state and local regulations already in place. ABA's board of directors, which unanimously approved the policy, represents 20 companies that comprise approximately 85% of school vending beverage sales by bottlers.
"Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the U.S., and the responsibility for finding common-sense solutions is shared by everyone, including our industry. We intend to be part of the solution by increasing the availability of lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages in schools," said Susan K. Neely, ABA president and chief executive officer.
The beverage industry provides a wide variety of beverage products to schools, including bottled water, juice, juice drinks, teas, sports drinks, dairy-based beverages, and full- and no-calorie soft drinks. The industry will continue to develop innovative new beverage choices, including additional low- and no-calorie products.
"Healthy and active kids can certainly enjoy soft drinks and juice drinks, but we understand that parents want more control over what their younger children consume in school and we want to support them with this policy," Neely said.
The ABA plans to run print and broadcast advertising to educate the public about the new policy.
Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages and PepsiCo are among the beverage companies that announced their full support of the ABA's new school vending policy.
In 2003, Cadbury Schweppes' Snapple operation entered into an exclusive vending and marketing agreement with the City of New York. The unique program provides such low-calorie beverages in schools as "100% Juiced" and "Snap 2-0" water, as well as financial support of sports and physical education programs including the Public School Athletic League.
The beverage industry also supports numerous physical activity initiatives across the country to encourage people to be more active, including the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, and sponsors youth sports teams and leagues throughout the country. For example, in conjunction with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, The Coca-Cola Co. developed the "Live It!" program, which encourages middle school students to get active and provides nutritional education materials.
PepsiCo and America On the Move developed a lesson plan called Balance First to help educate kids about energy balance. This program reached three million elementary school students in 2004. In 2005, as part of a partnership with Discovery Education, PepsiCo distributed the Balance First program to 15,000 middle schools in the United States.
ABA member companies also sponsor educational websites such as Kidnetic.com, an interactive site designed to teach kids and their families how to live healthier lives through proper diet and physical activity.
Additionally, in support of health and wellness initiatives, Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages has launched a three-year, multi-million dollar alliance to support the American Diabetes Association's efforts to fight obesity and diabetes in the U.S.