Students speak out in defense of pop in schools
By Matthew Stolle
The notion of selling what detractors call "sugar acid" in the Rochester public schools has generated negative commentary from Olmsted County health professionals, dentists and parents.
But Gabriel Moreno, a sophomore this fall at Mayo High School, doesn't understand why the issue of soft drinks in the schools is raising such a hullabaloo.
"I don't think it's really important whether it's there or not," Moreno said.
But Moreno changes his mind when told the stakes could include $2.1 million in extra revenue for the Rochester district, courtesy of the Pepsi Bottling Co. of Rochester.
"If it would benefit the schools, then it would be good to have something like that," he said.
Moreno said he knows through his father, a high school orchestra teacher, how budget cuts have created difficulties in buying new music and instruments. If that new money could be used to restore funding for music, athletic programs and other victims of budget cuts, "that would be great," he said.
The Rochester School Board continues to work through a process to decide whether to accept one of three proposals from vending machine companies for the exclusive or shared right to sell soda and other drinks in the district's schools.
The board this week is expected to hear from a district beverage committee that is urging a more restrictive environment for the sale of pop in schools.
Its recommendations include limiting vending machines to cafeterias in the high schools and giving "healthy beverages" such as milk, juice and water a competitive advantage by making them less expensive and more accessible to students.
But as the board weighs both the financial and health implications of its decision, one group yet to be heard from publicly are the students. Perhaps, not surprisingly, most don't see a problem with the selling of soda in schools, but for reasons that are often not similar.
Jenna Bowman, a ninth-grader at Century High School, says people should give students more credit for making smart decisions.
"Kids, like everyone else, are going to have to make choices in life, and if you don't start making them now, they'll have to make them some other time. Put it out there and see what they choose," Bowman said.
Bowman also supports directing whatever revenue that comes from a beverage contract to junior varsity sports or band, orchestra and choir programs that were eliminated last year.
Bowman also suggests officials are not being realistic.
"It would not be a smart choice to say pop should be gone because they will still bring it, or I'm sure kids would find ways to sell it themselves out of their locker. Pop is going to be there," she said.