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No more fizz in middle schools

September 20, 2003

Molly Shore

Coke might be the real thing, but beginning next year, Burbank

Unified middle school students will have to quench their thirst with

water, milk or fruit juice instead of soda.

Gov. Gray Davis this week signed Senate Bill 677, which restricts

the sale of soft drinks in elementary and middle school vending

machines. The legislation goes into effect in January.

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Although soft drinks are not sold in the district's elementary

schools, they are available at middle schools. Under the bill,

schools would be allowed to provide soft drinks at after-school

functions.

David Starr Jordan Middle School Principal Mary Margaret Kijunak

said she has mixed feelings about the legislation.

"Half of me wants to say [students] don't need the sugar," Kijunak

said. "But the other half says they will probably bring the drinks

from home."

While acknowledging that childhood obesity is an epidemic, John

Muir Middle School Principal Daniel Hacking believes changes in

children's nutritional habits have to start at home.

"I feel that it's a good thing that kids don't have soft drinks,

but it's not going to work through legislation," Hacking said.

Obesity rates have tripled among adolescents, according to a

report released this week by the Center for Science in the Public

Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based independent advocacy group. Soda

consumption by children rose 40% between 1989 and 1996, the report said.

The soda bill, as originally submitted by Sen. Deborah Ortiz

(D-Sacramento), would have banned the sale of soft drinks in all

public elementary and secondary schools, but high schools were spared

once the bill reached the Assembly Health Committee.

The high school provision didn't have sufficient votes, said

Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Burbank), the committee chairman.

By dropping high schools from consideration, Frommer said the ban

would take effect earlier than 2005, the start date of a previous

bill Davis signed into law in 2001.

"I think it was a big improvement. I'm actually pleased at the way

it turned out," he said.

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