Sugary sodas already out in Maine schools

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PORTLAND (AP) – The soft drink industry’s decision to take sugary sodas out of school vending machines nationwide won’t have a big impact in Maine. That’s because Maine already banned the sale of soda, candy and other junk food in schools.

Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Cadbury Schweppes PLC agreed Wednesday to halt the sale of soda in most public elementary and middle schools.

The agreement, to be phased in over the next three years, was brokered by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a collaboration between the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Most elementary schools are already soda-free. But under the new deal, beverage companies agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat and non-fat milk to elementary and middle schools. Diet sodas and sports drinks will remain in high schools.

Maine’s junk food and soda rule, which went into effect in October, has been a success so far, said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the state’s health director. Some districts, including School Administrative District 9 in Farmington, have banned soda altogether, she said.

“Some of the kids probably still bring it to school with them, but they are not having it promoted to them at school,” Mills said. “That’s a big difference.”

The anti-soda movement has spread in recent years among schools, towns and state governments. It’s part of the response to rising rates of childhood obesity. In Maine, more than a third of kindergartners are overweight or at risk.

Many Mainers are supportive.

Pat Hemes, who recalled gathering around the soda machine with her girlfriends and dropping dimes for bottles of Coca-Cola, said she’s glad that the times appear to be changing.

Her grandson is a junior at South Portland High School, and Hemes hopes his generation doesn’t get hooked on caffeinated sugar water.

“I sure agree with keeping it out of the schools,” Hemes said. “The first thing we did after school was go get a Coke. It wasn’t good for us at all.”

Many kids have a different view, though.

Messalonskee High School sophomore Justin Monroe starts drinking his 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew at breakfast and gets through the rest of it during the school day.

“I drink it all the time. Not having it in the school isn’t going to slow down my soda intake,” the 16-year-old from Oakland said.

Shannon McAvoy, a senior at the school in Oakland, said she works hard and she won’t be denied her soda.

“I work 40 hours a week, and I need an orange soda to get me through the day,” she said.

AP-ES-05-04-06 1045EDT

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