Added sugars are getting more and more attention as a public health concern. Kids eat them in sweetened cereal at breakfast. They’re in granola bars and other snacks. Sugar can be added to the ketchup on burgers; the sauce on spaghetti; and the cookies, cakes or ice cream at dessert.
But do you know how children get most of their added sugar each day?
They drink it.
About half of the added sugar kids get each day comes from beverages, which makes cutting back on sugary drinks an important step in improving health. There is evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Even one sugary drink can exceed a child’s recommended daily limit of added sugar from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Some Alaska communities are taking action to limit the negative health effects of sugary drinks. The North Slope Borough School Board in Utqiagvik passed a district policy during August 2017 that means sodas and other carbonated beverages will no longer be allowed on their elementary- and middle-school campus during school hours.
Brian Freeman from North Slope Borough School District (NSBSD) described their new policy on a success story panel at the recent 2017 School Health & Wellness Institute.
The effort started as a “Stop the Pop” pledge for players on the Barrow high school football and volleyball teams who decided to cut out drinking soda during the season. This then expanded to their booster club’s decision to stop selling soda at after-school sporting events. The effort has now become a school district policy, designating entire school buildings as “soda-free.”
Going above and beyond
School districts across the state are updating their school wellness policies to align with federal regulations that require foods and beverages sold on campus to be nutritious and promote health.
North Slope wellness team members knew they’d need to update their policy to meet federal regulations, but they said they didn’t think the minimum regulations went far enough. The North Slope Borough School District wellness policy goes above and beyond the minimum regulations to address the concerns of their communities and promote student health. While districts across the country are working to ensure that drinks sold on campus during the school day meet nutrition standards, the North Slope team decided they wanted their school campuses to be “soda-free.” Beginning with their elementary and middle schools, all drinks provided to students for free and brought from home must also meet the Smart Snacks in School beverage criteria. The district team may decide to include high schools in the future.
North Slope isn’t the only school district taking steps to address sugary drinks at school. Schools across the state are spreading the word about sugars hiding in everyday drinks. The latest posters in the Play Every Day sugary drink education campaign were mailed out to be displayed in about 180 elementary schools that signed up to participate in the Fall 2017 Healthy Futures Challenge.
School districts like North Slope Borough know how important good health is to academic achievement and are doing what they can to help students be healthy and successful learners. Other districts can consider changes that work for their school campuses. Visit this site for more information about Alaska School Wellness policies and Be a School Wellness Champion.