Sugar-sweetened beverages make up a huge chunk of these extra calories in our kids’ diets. It’s no surprise then, as we learn more about the impact of sugary drinks on health, that more and more schools have become aware of this concern. But simply being aware isn’t enough! What’s the point of talk without the walk?
The reality is, though, that change is actually in the making. The USDA has proposed putting a standard on national school sales of foods, including à la carte items, vending machines, and school stores. As of 2014, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has partnered with the USDA to create new beverage standards and means of identifying beverage products that meet these standards.
These standards can make a huge difference to the health of our children and putting them into action is key. In fact, the government’s action plan for school beverages is having a resounding impact. With the help of the combined efforts of the USDA and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the new standards are now being implemented in local schools. Schools that put these standards into effect saw a 90% decrease in the number of calories shipped to schools between 2004 and 2010. Also, while 77% of school beverages were considered unhealthy in 2004, this percentage dropped to 35% by 2010. This is great news for parents committed to reducing their kids’ exposure to drinks that provide little beyond sugar and calories.
But remember: these standards and policies set by the state and local government can only reach as far as public schools. Private schools, which are attended by 10% of school-age children, aren’t under any obligation to follow the new standards. This means that 10% of school-age kids have free and unrestricted access to sugar-loaded beverages. In other words, 10% of kids attending schools are still at risk from developing the health issues that come from consuming too many calories from sugary beverages. Essentially, both private schools and public schools need to collaborate to most effectively make changes towards the betterment of child health.
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