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Oakland School District bans soft drinks and sweets
School board will ban sweets
New rule bars campus candy sales

By Alex Katz STAFF WRITER
Oakland Tribune, Dec 14th 2001

OAKLAND -- A new era of Prohibition was declared in Oakland schools this
week when the school board barred the sale of substances that are consumed
in dangerous amounts on many of the city's campuses: soft drinks and sweets.

Students looking for their daily sugar fixes won't be able to score on
campus anymore, the Oakland Unified School District board decided Wednesday
over objections from some board members who said the move would take money
away from various school programs.

Although some details remain unclear, Superintendent Dennis Chaconas and
board members agreed the ban intends to prohibit candy, sodas, caffeine and
sugar-filled drinks and "similar products" from being sold in school
cafeterias, in vending machines, at athletic events or even for fund-raising
purposes on school grounds starting next month.

"If it's harmful, and it's been proven that it's harmful, we shouldn't have
it on our campuses whatsoever," said board member Noel Gallo. "It may not be
the most popular thing for all the kids and some individuals, but I think
it's the right thing to do."

Oakland may be the first district in the state to pass such a wide-reaching
embargo against the sale of sweet drinks and foods, experts in the field of
school nutrition said.

Whether the ban can be enforced, however, is another matter. And students
and teachers say they use money from candy sales to pay for everything from
camping trips to sports equipment to ink ribbons for fax machines.

Vending machines alone bring in an estimated $200,000 a year for schools,
Chaconas said.

Pie-in-the-sky

"Realistically, I don't think it ever will be enforced," said school board
President Jason Hodge, who opposed the measure. "It's kind of like a
pie-in-the-sky mandate from the board. I think it's going to be difficult
and kind of unfair to ask (schools) to go through this change in culture and
practice overnight."

Hodge wondered if board members had considered repercussions. "I honestly
don't think the board members realized what they were doing (Wednesday)
night."

The ban came as part of a new nutrition policy adopted in a 9-1 vote (with
Hodge opposing). Three board members voted against including the ban in the
policy.

The policy originally called for schools to stop selling soda and candy in
vending machines during school hours. But an amendment from Gallo extended
the policy to cover all sales of the products on campuses at all times.

At Oakland High School, where student clubs sell candy almost daily to raise
money for dozens of projects, students and teachers said they thought the
ban was unfair.

"I've never heard of such a thing," teacher Paul August said. "That's like
saying 'I'm a vegetarian, so we're not going to serve meat on campus.'"

The school makes about $6,000 a year from vending machine sales, school
officials said. The money is split by the student government and
administration.

Part of the money bought a small Christmas tree for the cafeteria this year.
The tree sits in sight of 11 vending machines, each of them selling sugary
food or drinks.

Candy to students

School Key Club secretary Karen Tong, who was selling candy to students at
lunch Thursday, said the ban would cut off the club's only source of
funding.

"Ours is a service club so it's really important," said Tong, a senior.

Nutrition professionals who helped form the original policy said most
teen-agers consume far too much soda and candy, which can have profound
effects on health.

On average, teen-age boys nationwide drink 2.5 12-ounce sodas every day, or
about 800 cans each year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture
study. Girls drink slightly less, the study found.

Prone to obesity

Drinking soda every day can make children more prone to obesity, bone
fractures, cavities and Type 2 diabetes, health experts say.

The board's new nutrition policy will apparently end a long-running and
often heated debate in the district over whether to give the Pepsi company
exclusive rights to sell its drinks in schools.

"Right here in East Oakland, Pepsi and Coca Cola are ingrained in our minds
through all the advertising," Gallo said. "The sweetness may taste good, but
in terms of the damage it does to you, it's bad."


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