The state Department of Education is asking state lawmakers to rescind the state law that allows sugary drinks to be sold in high schools. A legislative interim committee forwarded the draft legislation following a vote Tuesday.
Office of Nutrition Executive Director Rick Goff says there’s currently a state law on school drinks and a state DOE policy which follows federal guidelines. Goff says the law, approved in the 1990s, which allows soft drinks to be sold at high schools, has created confusion and should be rescinded.
“We’re seeking one policy and let it come from the state (school) board,” Goff said. “The state board has to correspond with federal policy. We wouldn’t have the third layer of confusion.”
The bill is the top priority of the West Virginia Healthy Lifestyles Coalition, but rescinding the law likely won’t be easy. The West Virginia Beverage Association made it known on Tuesday it supports the current set-up.
“It does not allow the soft drinks in elementary schools or middle schools but permits a certain caloric amount of soft drinks in high schools,” beverage association lobbyist Danielle Waltz-Swann told the legislative committee. “Those guidelines were put together by a large group of very qualified people that studied for years.”
Waltz-Swann says the beverage association wants to be part of the solution but believes soft drinks should continue in high schools.
“That was the best position to allow our students in high school who are old enough to make choices to prepare for the real world, where choices are in front of them, and help them to make healthy choices.
Goff says there’s nothing healthy about having soft drinks in high schools.
“There’s a time for soft drink consumption and schools need to be held at a different standard,” he said. “It’s so easy to do; a no brainer.”
Goff says the current state DOE policy follows federal guidelines established through the Institute of Medicine. Drinks allowed include water, 100-percent fruit or vegetable juice, skim or 1-percent low-fat milk (flavored or unflavored).
“The goal is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment,” Goff said.
The state law defines a healthy beverage as anything that has 20 percent real juice. It also deals with the revenue side of selling soft drinks allowing for faculty senates to make decisions about most of the profits.