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School vending machines A new study suggests banning soda from schools may be ineffective. (Gregory Shaver / Journal Times /
AP Images)

Should Schools Ban Soda?

Some schools have removed soda to encourage kids to pick healthier drinks

By Laura Leigh Davidson | December 1 , 2011

To help kids follow a healthy diet, many schools throughout the United States have banned sugary drinks from vending machines and cafeterias. School and health officials hope that eliminating students’ access to the sweet beverages at school will reduce their taste for those drinks in general.

But just because a student can’t buy sugary drinks at his or her school doesn’t mean they won’t buy and drink them at home or outside school, says a new study on kids’ consumption of sodas, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened liquids.

The study followed 6,900 fifth- and eighth-graders in public schools from 40 states. Their schools had a mix of policies: Some banned all sugary drinks (including sports and fruit drinks), some restricted just soda, and some schools had no ban on sugary beverages at all.

Regardless of the school policy, students still purchased sugar-sweetened drinks outside of school. The study found that about 85 percent of students reported consuming sugary beverages at least once a week.

"The most [clear-cut] finding was that laws that focus on soda are just not getting it done,” study author Daniel Taber told The New York Times.

In other words, just banning sugary drinks from schools isn’t on its own going to make kids healthier. State and federal officials are now focusing on making school meals healthier.

Although it is fairly easy for the government to regulate student access to food and drink at school, getting parents and kids to take on an overall healthy diet is a bigger challenge. Lawmakers are even considering adding an extra tax on sugary beverages and junk food to try to make these foods less desirable.

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