Mills school makes healthy vending move

Students in need of that morning sugar rush will need to look outside the school to find it. When the doors to New York Mills Public School opened for the first day of classes on Tuesday the vending machines were without sugar-loaded soda.

Students in need of that morning sugar rush will need to look outside the school to find it. When the doors to New York Mills Public School opened for the first day of classes on Tuesday the vending machines were without sugar-loaded soda.

The school district recently entered into a new 5-year contract with Pepsi, which will sell water, flavored water, juice, Gatorade and diet soda in the high school vending machines. Water will only be sold in areas of the school frequented by elementary students. These areas include the concessions, commons and cafeteria.

The reason to eliminate "leaded" pop, as superintendent Todd Cameron calls it, is for health reasons. Kids don't need all the calories and sugar. That means students won't be able to "Do the Dew" during the school day.

"There's no reason not to move this direction," Cameron said. "We want our kids to learn at an early age to make healthy choices."

Adults don't need to panic, the full-bodied, full-flavored, "leaded" drinks will still be sold during sporting events and other activities.


New York Mills is not unique in the move to healthier choices. Schools are now mandated in the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 to develop wellness policies in response to the nation's obesity epidemic, this according to "The Soda Pop Solution: It's Relationship to School Wellness Policies" from the Minnesota School Board Association.

As current vending contracts expire and schools across the country renew, as NY Mills recently did, full-bodied soda pop will disappear.

Cameron said NY Mills has continued moving in a healthier direction the last three years he has been superintendent, with the district purchasing healthy snack machines and promoting healthier eating and drinking habits. Instead of candy machines the school has healthy snack machines, which dispenses things like yogurt bars, breakfast cereal bars, bagels, sliced apples, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beef jerky. These machines are separate from the Pepsi vending contract but ties right in with the healthier consumption philosophy at the school.

The Soda Pop Solution: Its Relationship to School Wellness Policies

School Wellness Policies

  • Mandated in Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 in response to the nation's obesity epidemic
  • Shaped by research showing increased physical activity and improved nutrition impacts obesity and increases learning - health and leaning are interconnected
  • Acknowledges that policy and environment influence health and lifestyle behaviors.
  • Keeps policy decision-making at local level
  • Responsibility for creating healthy environments conducive to healthy choices is shared by all - communities so require involvement of many stakeholders

Why? The Obesity Epidemic

  • Threatens not only our children's health and academic success but national economy too.
  • Increases costs to school districts through special insurance costs for staff
  • $78 billion a year in obesity-related healthcare
  • $40 billion of this paid through Medicare and Medicaid (by taxpayers)

Childhood Obesity

  • First generation of children expected to live shorter lives than their parents - adult diseases
  • Obesity rates for kids have tripled in last 20 years
  • One in three is overweight, one in seven is obese
  • 25% of 5-10 yr olds have signs of heart disease, elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes no longer called 'Adult onset'
  • Only 2% of 2-19 yr olds meet requirements for healthy diet

Childhood Obesity & Soda Pop


  • Soda and fruit drinks provide little nutritional value but are biggest source of calories and added sugar for teens (twice as much soda as milk)
  • Kids start drinking soda at a young age and consumption increases through adulthood
  • 56% of 8 yr olds drink soda daily
  • 1/3 of teen boys drink 3 cans of soda a day
  • As soda consumption goes up, risk for obesity increases


  • Obesity a complex problem that will require multiple strategies from multiple sectors
  • It's not just about soda pop
  • Environmental policy change needed
  • Improving nutrition and increasing physical activity are both necessary - both impact health and learning
  • Preventing overweight in childhood key because it is so difficult to change as adults
  • Sustained effort will be necessary to change cultural behaviors developed over last decades

What the research says:

  • Physical Activity (PA) is positively associated with academic performance. (Dwyer)
  • School PE improves concentration and improved math, reading and writing scores and reduced disruptive behavior (Kolbe) and show a more positive attitude toward school (Polatschek)
  • Cognitive benefits of PA during school adequately compensate for time away from other areas (Shepherd)
  • Poor dietary choices, inadequate nutrient intake and skipping breakfast interfere with cognitive functioning and linked to lower motivation, attentiveness academic performance.
  • Participation in school breakfast programs associated with significant improvements in daily attendance, class participation and test scores and decreases tardiness, especially among low-income, poorly nourished children
  • Scores in reading and math higher for students who received comprehensive health education then those who did not. (Schoener)

Steps to healthier foods and beverages

  • Ensure all foods and beverages available contribute toward eating patterns consistant with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Market healthy food choices by integrating nutrition education throughout the school
  • Include media literacy education to help students navigate through conflicting messaging
  • Give new policies a chance to succeed, kids will select from what is available
  • Keep schools free of commercial advertising

Steps to healthier vending

  • Set vending guidelines to limit soda and other Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value
  • Don't accept the perception that changing vending options means losing revenue
  • Create demand for healthier choices through effective marketing
  • Review options with contractual obligations
  • Most contracts are more lucrative for vendors that schools
  • Consider pricing incentives for healthier choices
  • Require sales & profit data from vendors
  • American Beverage Agreement is a positive step by the Beverage Industry
  • A voluntary agreement to remove sugared sodas by 2009
  • Eliminates soda from elementary and middle schools
  • Limits soda in high school but not sports drinks
  • Bottlers will be encouraged to adopt the policy but schools have not agreed to it
  • Because it is voluntary it is unenforceable
  • Doesn't preclude schools from having stronger standards
  • More states have policies to restrict soda sales in schools than for any other nutritional consideration
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