NEW YORK CITY — The American Beverage Association and The Alliance for a Healthier Generation have agreed to guidelines for “healthier” beverages sold in schools. The Alliance is a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association. This is the Alliance’s first industry agreement as part of its “Healthy Schools Program,” and will affect nearly 35 million students across the country.
ABA and leading beverage producers Cadbury Schweppes, The Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsico will work to spread the new standards to 75% of the nation’s schools prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. The industry will strive to fully implement these guidelines prior to the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, provided schools and school districts are willing to amend existing contracts.
The new guidelines limit portion sizes and reduce the number of calories available to children during the school day to 100 calories per container, except for certain milks and juices whose nutritional value warrants higher caloric content.
Only lower-calorie and “nutritious” beverages will be sold to schools. Elementary schools will only sell water and 8-fl.oz. calorie-capped servings of certain juices with no added sweeteners, as well as servings of fat-free and low-fat regular and flavored milks.
Middle schools will apply the elementary school standard with portion sizes increased slightly to 10 fl.oz.
In addition to the beverages available in elementary and middle schools, high schools will also sell no-calorie and low-calorie drinks such as bottled water, diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, fitness water, low calorie sports drinks, flavored water and seltzers, as well as light juices and sports drinks. At least half of available beverages in high schools will now be water, no-calorie, and low-calorie selections.
Light juices and sports drinks will be sold in 12-fl.oz. containers with no more than 100 calories per container, while 100% juices and non fat and low fat milks also will be sold in containers up to 12 fl.oz.
ABA drafted a school vending policy for the beverage industry last year. The new guidelines strengthen the current ABA policy by further reducing the availability of caloric beverages during the traditional school day, and applying the same standards to the extended school day when before- and after-school programs such as clubs, yearbook, band and choir practice, student government, drama and childcare programs are available.
Beginning in 2007 and annually thereafter, the beverage industry will compile the percentage of schools they have under contract that are in compliance with the policy. This information will be made publicly available through the American Beverage Association beginning in August 2007.
Speaking on behalf of the National Automatic Merchandising Association, public relations director Jackie Clark said: “NAMA believes that obesity is a very complex problem that requires us all to work together. The beverage industry deserves to be applauded for its proactive approach, which clearly demonstrates that it is working hard to be part of the solution.”
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation targets several areas that can spark change and slow the increasing rates of childhood obesity in the U.S. and encourage healthier lifestyles for young people.
The effort will focus on four key areas: industry; schools, healthcare professionals and kids. The program takes a comprehensive approach by recognizing schools that improve nutrition in the foods sold in schools; that increase both physical education and physical activity before, during and after the school day; that provide nutrition education; and that establish staff wellness programs.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a major funder of the Healthy Schools Program. For more information visit healthiergeneration.org.