By Sharon McLoone
Seven of Fairfax County’s 25 public schools are participating in a pilot project banning sales of soda via vending machines after the school day beginning in September.
Soda products are not currently available in any Fairfax County public school during the school day, except for adult purchases in teachers’ lounges. However, after school is dismissed for the day, sodas had been available for purchase during after-school activity hours. Fruit juices and water will continue to be vended during the school day.
“We want to look at the students having some healthier options and more variety,” said Penny McConnell, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Fairfax County Public Schools and a registered dietician.
The ban will remove regular soda products from the after-school soda machines in the seven participating schools: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; Lake Braddock Secondary School; Chantilly, Falls Church, Langley, Marshall and West Potomac High Schools.
Student and parent after-school fundraisers such as snack bars and booster clubs are excluded from the pilot and can continue to sell soft drinks and candy after school hours.
In the participating schools, 47 existing soda machines will be replaced with 37 new, state-of-the-art glass front beverage machines, with the costs of the new machines covered by the Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo.
The new items will include Coke and Pepsi products such diet and unsweetened teas, coconut waters, V-8 Fusion Juice, SoBe Lifewaters in flavors such as pomegranate and Fuji apple, Propel Zeros and G2 Gatorade products.
An evaluation of the one-year pilot will be conducted by FCPS’ Office of Food and Nutrition Services and will include an examination of revenues, students’ product preferences and acceptance of new products.
“I believe we need to study these issues and make changes gradually when it comes to food and beverages,” McConnell said. “It’s like how the mayor of New York said we will, and the court said no we won’t…I see little children in elementary school bringing soft drinks in their lunches from home, projects like this can help us in figuring out what we need to do to change this paradigm.”
She said the participating schools were selected to represent a cross-section of the school system, adding that Langley, Marshall and Thomas Jefferson specifically asked if they could participate.
Tell us, what do you think of the soda ban? Do you support it?