Popping the question

School to reconsider selling sugary soft drinks

Laura Elder

School district officials soon must decide whether to ban or limit the sale of sugary soda to students. And the decision could cost Moffat County High School thousands of dollars in yearly revenues from soft drink sales and corporate sponsorships.

The 3-year contract between Pepsi Bottling Group and the high school expires Jan. 7.

District officials, under pressure from new state rules to provide students with more nutritious snacks and beverages, will decide whether to renew the contract.

The decision won’t be easy.

Last year, sales of Pepsi products at the high school and money from Pepsi sponsorships generated nearly $40,000 for programs.

The contract review comes at a time when health and school officials are working to get their arms around the expanding problem of childhood obesity.

Two years ago, Gov. Bill Owens signed into law a bill requiring 50 percent of vending machine items in schools to be healthy foods or nutritious beverages by the 2006-07 school year.

The School Board has not taken action on the Pepsi contract, but Superintendent Pete Bergmann gave members information about it at the board’s regular meeting last week.

The school board must decide what mix of healthy beverages and drinks with high sugar content should be in schools, Bergmann said.

“It’s a tough decision, to what degree the school plays in eliminating that from kids’ diets,” Bergmann said.

The school district also has sought feedback from parents, faculty and staff, Bergmann said.

After a survey last year, parents, faculty and staff considered pros and cons of having pop and other beverages available to students.

The positive aspects of selling soft drinks in the high school included having revenue that otherwise would go to convenience stores and knowing what students were drinking, according to the survey.

The downside, according to the survey, included health factors, distractions in class and the drop in sales if beverages were limited to Gatorade and water.

Custodial issues, though minor, also were listed as a downside to selling soda pop in schools.

But to Louise Gallegos, it’s a big issue.

Gallegos, a high school custodian, said she would be happy if soda machines were removed from the schools.

“One or two pops a day is one thing, but some of these kids don’t eat lunch so they can drink their pop,” Gallegos said.

Soft drink sales mean more work for Gallegos and her co-workers, she said. Students often spill drinks on the carpet and leave bottles in the bleachers after basketball games, she said.

She is most concerned about students who drop full, open bottles onto the school’s third-floor landing.

“If they ever hit someone with one, they’d kill them,” she said.

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