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California Refuses to Ban Soda Pop in School Vending Machines
May 22, 2002

Contra Costa Times (California)

Committee says no to schools soda ban

The bill would have barred soft drink sales on the state's campuses, but
the education committee rejected the measure

By Stefanie Frith

ASSOCIATED PRESS SACRAMENTO - Ignoring nutritionists who say
California's school children are becoming more
obese with every soda they sip, a Senate committee killed a bill Tuesday
that would have banned the sale of soft drinks on
school campuses. The Senate Education Committee defeated the bill by
Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, by a 6-1 vote. It needed eight votes
to pass. If SB1520 had become law, California would have been the most
populous state to start phasing out junk food in schools. Texas is
trying to limit junk food sales, while Maine, New York, New Jersey,
Maryland, Colorado, Nebraska and Idaho already do. The same goes for
Florida, where snack food is not sold on elementary school campuses. The
soft drink and food industries opposed the bill, as did the California
Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union. Industry
advocates said it would limit the choice of people to eat and drink what
they want, while teachers said it would take money away from schools
during difficult financial times. The California Teachers Association
said with $1.7 billion in K-12 costs being shifted from this budget year
to next, now is not the time to be taking money away from schools. "If
you ban soda on school campuses, they will just go off campus and buy it
at the gas station across the street," said Wayne Johnson, CTA
president. "I don't think you will accomplish much except hurting school
funding." Many schools rely on income from soda and snack food sales.
Nationwide, schools get about $750 million a year from companies that
sell snack or processed food in schools, an industry study found. The
Oakland school district would have lost about $650,000 a year, while the
San Diego City district would have lost about $500,000. In San Diego,
soft drinks are sold on only the 16 high school campuses, said city
district spokesman Steven Baratte. If Ortiz's bill had passed, the
district planned to make up for the lost money by selling juice and
milk. The California Alliance for Consumer Protection, a soft drink
industry lobbying group, said the bill only hinted at the fundamental
problem of overweight children. "What about all the other crappy food
they (schools) sell?" asked Michael Ross, a lobbyist for the alliance.
"To pick on one thing is wrong. So don't just pick on sodas." Ross added
that schools are so concerned with raising children's test scores that
the homework load is growing and students are not receiving the amount
of exercise they should. Ortiz had first proposed a tax on soda and
other sugary, high-calorie drinks, then amended her bill to limit the
sale of beverages on school campuses to fruit-based drinks, water,
sports drinks and milk.

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