An alliance working to promote healthy meals and beverages in schools across the country have teamed up with an unlikely crew of sugar gurus—working with representatives of Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo—for the purpose of establishing new guidelines to limit portion sizes and reduce the number of calories available to children during the school day.
Under these guidelines, only lower calorie and nutritious beverages will be sold to schools. This is the Alliance’s first industry agreement as part of its Healthy Schools Program, and it affects close to 35 million students across the country.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation and is a part of its Healthy Schools Program.
According to Sevier County School System (SCSS) representative Mary Lee, county schools have already begun removing high-calorie items from its vending machines in accordance with new USDA guidelines. Lee said that most of the schools had already complied with this and the rest “are going to be taken out by July 1,” which is the USDA deadline. The guidelines are only applicable to kindergarten through eighth-grade schools.
Lee and several colleagues including Mike Helton, SCSS Special Programs Supervisor, have formed a committee to develop a wellness policy for the SCSS schools. In April, wellness teams from East Tennessee school districts convened in Sevierville for a workshop put on by the state Department of Education and sponsored by the USDA.
“Gov. Bredesen has charged state leaders to coordinate efforts in the battle against childhood obesity,” Commissioner Lana Seivers said, commemorating the workshops. “Educating children about the importance of a nutritious diet and active lifestyle fosters healthy students, which enhances their ability to focus on learning.”
The wellness teams are required to have a policy in place, also with a July 1 deadline. According to Lee, the team has met several times so far, and has plans to meet with various cafeteria managers and physical education instructors to help develop the plan.
“I think this is going to be a real healthy start,” said Lee, adding that she felt like exercise is also an important part of this equation. “What would really help, in the long run, is if we help them to be more active from day to day,” said Lee.