School board makes good beginning toward nutrition
More than a tad of politics may have danced around the child nutrition issue at the State Board of Education meeting Tuesday. But in the end, the board did some good things.
On one side, soft drink bottlers didn't want their products withdrawn from a significant portion of the market. They had support from what seemed to be desperate local authorities who say they need the vending machine revenue for their schools.
Taking the high road, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who chaired a subcommittee on child nutrition, and children's doctors wanted the board to ban all soft drinks from schools.
They want students to drink more milk, water and fruit juices.
Pushing milk and fruit juice, particularly if they are Alabama produced and good for children, would do no harm to Mr. Sparks' political future.
Faced with these pressures, the board took a tiny step forward and banned colas from elementary schools, which around here has little effect because most don't sell soft drinks.
But middle and high school students may feel the pinch. Middle schoolers may have no more than 30 percent of soft drinks in vending machines and high schoolers no more than 50 percent. Half of those drinks must be the diet colas.
The other selections must include water, tea, milk and fruit juice.
Hopefully, the board will decree that the number of vending machines can't increase even if they stock the proper ratio of selections. If it doesn't, look for more machines and more colas as a way to offset the restrictions.
The drink issue aside, the board did attack comfort foods. Pizzas, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, French fries and fried chicken will gradually disappear from school menus.
These changes of course are great, but the challenge is to get youngsters to drink liquids and eat foods that are good for them.