This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
By a slim, one-vote margin, the School Reform Commission recently signed off on a policy that will ban the sale of most sweetened drinks to elementary, middle, and high school students in schools districtwide.
Last spring, a solicitation of proposals by the School District for an exclusive soft drink contract sparked concerns among community members and nutrition advocates.
Calling for the District to ban sweetened beverage sales to students and to promote healthier eating habits among youth, seven local health advocacy groups came together as the Philadelphia Coalition for Healthy Children (PCHC) to launch a public information campaign, which included extensive testimony at public hearings and School Reform Commission meetings.
PCHC member and public school cafeteria worker Cecelia James said the campaign for a soda ban was effective because parents and community members spoke out.
Campaigns to pressure District officials are "not as effective, if [parents’] voices are not heard," she said.
Only 100 percent fruit juice, plain or flavored milk, and water will be available through over-the-counter and vending machine sales in schools when the new policy takes effect this July. Sweetened "sports" drinks may also be sold, but only in high school athletic areas.
Yael Lehman, senior associate with the Food Trust – the organization that spearheaded PCHC – said Philadelphia’s policy goes "farther than almost any other policy of any other school district in the country."
New York and Los Angeles, have already banned soda sales during the school day.
For more information call the Food Trust at 215-568-0830 or visit www.thefoodtrust.org.