07/28/05 — Legislature makes some classrooms sugar-less

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Legislature makes some classrooms sugar-less

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on July 28, 2005 1:48 PM

A legislative initiative to eliminate soft drink sales at middle schools will not change Wayne County policy, school officials said today.

That's because the drinks have already been banned.

Lawmakers approved a ban on soft-drink machines in middle schools this week. The measure has been sent to Gov. Mike Easley, who is expected to sign it into law.

Wayne school officials say the ban has been a part of the county's system's policy for more than a year.

Kristy Fair, public relations director for the schools, said most schools in the county do not offer soft drinks during the school day. Vending machines that carry soft-drinks are located in gyms or other locations that are available to students after regular class hours, she said.

Wayne school cafeterias sell only 50-percent to 100-percent juice, she said. While the policy varies at individual schools, most do not have soda vending machines.

"The point is to expose them to healthy choices," Ms. Fair said.

State law now bars soft drinks from being sold in elementary schools or during a student's lunch period.

The bill expands the soda ban to machines in middle schools and when breakfast is sold. No more than half of the beverages offered to students in high schools from the vending machines could be sugared soft drinks. Bottled water also must be offered. Diet soft drinks still could be sold in middle schools.

The bill also would prohibit elementary school students from using snack machines. In middle and high schools, 75 percent of the snacks available in the machines would have no more than 200 calories each.

The drink rules would apply to vending contracts approved or renewed after Aug. 1. The snack restrictions would begin with the 2006-07 school year.

This past school year, Wayne school officials joined with the county Health Department introduced a "Winners Circle" program at three schools as a way to introduce healthy food choices to students.

Barbara Ward, director of the child nutrition program in Wayne County, said the program was launched at Charles B. Aycock High, Norwayne Middle, and Fremont Elementary schools.

Ms. Ward said the plan is to expand the program into all the schools this year.