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Pop losing its fizz in school vending machines

Soft drink makers to stop selling sugary soda, offer alternatives to kids. NBC News correspondent Martin Savidge reports.
/ Source: TODAY

According to a study, ice cold soda pop contributes the most calories to the American diet. In response to consumer pressure, the American Beverage Association is limiting the amount of sugary drinks it sells in schools. NBC News correspondent Martin Savidge reports.

Increasingly, pop in school has been going over like a belch in English class. Parents and health advocates concerned with obesity in children see the sugar-laden soft drinks as one of the prime culprits.

Soft drink makers, including giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi, will stop selling sugary soda in elementary and middle schools. They will also cut back sales in high schools – instead offering water, 100 percent fruit juices and diet drinks.

"The industry was united that they needed to do something and that they wanted to have a school policy," says Susan Neely, president of The American Beverage Association.

That's good news to moms like Ann Laseter who's been pushing for change. “That's a good feeling to, I guess, to know that your voice can be heard every once in a while,” says Laseter.

But some say the policy doesn't go far enough. “This new policy is a good step forward for elementary schools but practically it doesn't address high schools at all,” says Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Others say the industry move is less about health and more about defusing efforts across the country to regulate vending in schools.

How hard will it be to get kids to buy the alternatives?It's tough because kids are used to these foods and they like them.  It's not a bad idea to limit available in place of those foods to offer healthier alternatives. We have to find ways to make that lucrative for the companies in the schools so it's about business, about making money.  If we could encourage children to eat healthier foods with advertising and promotion it would make them lucrative while giving children healthier choices.

More and more state legislatures were getting involved in the hot debate, at last count over 30, including some that wanted to ban vending machines.

But health experts point out that childhood obesity doesn’t begin and end with just the soft drink industry. They say more needs to be done at school and especially at home.

But the responsibility of limiting sugary drinks doesn’t lay squarely on the soft drink industry. Samantha Heller, a clinical nutritionist and Health magazine contributor says parents have to teach their children to, “Eat healthy at home, have the parents be positive role models and have healthy eating be a reward not a punishment.”