Beverages in schools transformed by industry efforts

by Keith Nunes
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NEW YORK — There has been an 88% reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools since 2004, according to the American Beverage Association. The A.B.A. said the reduction was part of the three-year commitment the nation’s largest beverage companies had made with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an initiative by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.

The A.B.A. published the Alliance School Beverage Guidelines Final Progress Report, and confirmed that The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta; PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y.; and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Plano, Texas, and their systems of local bottling companies have been working to alter the beverage offerings in schools throughout the country. The report was prepared by the independent firm Keybridge Research, L.L.C., which has prepared the previous two progress reports.

“A critical component of the Alliance's national effort to end childhood obesity has been our work with the beverage industry to reduce the amount of calories our kids consume in schools,” said former President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, who co-leads the Alliance with Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association.

Under the guidelines, 100% juice, low-fat milk and bottled water are allowed in elementary and middle schools, with the addition of diet beverages and calorie-capped sports drinks, flavored waters and teas in high schools. In addition to the removal of full-calorie soft drinks from all schools, the shift toward more lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages also is contributing to the overall reduction in calories available from beverages in schools.

The report shows that industry delivered on several important markers, including the fact that 88% fewer beverage calories were shipped to schools between 2004, the last comprehensive data available prior to the agreement, and the end of 2009; shipments of full-calorie soft drinks to schools have declined by 95% during the period; and at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year, 98.8% of schools and school districts measured were aligned to the guidelines.

“It’s a brand new day in America’s schools when it comes to beverages,” said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. “Our beverage companies have slashed calories in schools as full-calorie soft drinks have been removed. The beverages available to students are now lower-calorie, nutritious, smaller-portion choices.”

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