SIKESTON -- As the number of overweight children continues to rise, the adults in their lives are trying to find ways to reverse the nationwide trend.
Last month the nation's largest beverage distributors agreed to stop selling non-diet sodas to most public schools, where childhood obesity has become an increasing concern.
The agreement should reach an estimated 87 percent of the school drink market, Susan Neely, American Beverage Association president and CEO, told the Associated Press. Industry giants Cadbury Schweppes PLC, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. -- all ABA members -- have agreed to the changes, she said.
Under the agreement, high schools will still be sold low-calorie drinks that contain less than 10 calories per serving, as well as drinks that are considered nutritious, such as juice, sports drinks and low-fat milk. Whole milk will no longer be offered to any schools because of its calorie content, Neely said.
How quickly the changes take hold will depend in part on individual school districts' willingness to alter their existing contracts, the alliance said. The companies agreed to work to implement the changes at 75 percent of the nation's public schools by the 2008-2009 school year, and at all public schools a year later.
"I'm glad to see some positive things happening with this," said Karen Wooten, state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education food service station director.
In addition to the ABA halting some of its sales to schools, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 requires each school district that participates under the National School Lunch Act to establish a local wellness policy for each school in the district by the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year.
To assist Missouri schools with the somewhat detailed process, DESE developed nutritional guidelines called "Missouri Eat Smart."
"They're not mandatory," Wooten said about the guidelines. "They're a guideline, and schools choose to do whatever they feel will match their school districts best."
Missouri Eat Smart offers three levels of guidelines for schools to choose from: minimum, intermediate and advanced. The minimum level is sufficient to satisfy the law while intermediate and advanced levels are offered for districts that wish to adopt standards above what is required.
For most school districts like Sikeston R-6 and New Madrid County R-1, policy implementation is still under way. Both Sikeston and New Madrid County R-1 plan for their school board members to adopt local wellness policies during their regular meetings later this month.
"Basically, we will adopt a local wellness policy in June, and that policy mandates you have a local wellness committee. The committee will start meeting in the fall and address certain issues," said Lori Boardman, Sikeston R-6 business services director.
Boardman said she isn't exactly sure how the change in service by the beverage distributors will affect the district yet.
Currently, the Senior High has Pepsi products and some of other schools have other brands. Bottled water and 100 percent juices are already offered at some of schools in Sikeston's district, Boardman said.
"Bottled water and juice are offered at the Junior High and Senior High and are big sellers. I'm not sure our kids will be that upset with the decisions made (about soda)," Boardman said.
Boardman said she expects the soda issue will be a forefront in the district's committee.
Dr. Cindy Sharp Amick, curriculum director of New Madrid County R-1, said the district's wellness committee will include administrators, school counselors, nurses, food service director, physical education teachers, family and consumer science teachers, parents and other people in the district associated with wellness.
"We are ensuring water and juice are in the soda machines, and we are ensuring that students have an adequate amount of physical activity throughout the day," Amick said.
The curriculum must also be designed to receive wellness information and knowledge with it, Amick said. The state would like a large amount of physical activity as well.
"The policy, overall, is well and good and wonderful -- and it will be great, but we have to teach, too," Amick said. "... Their (state and federal) goals are to promote more physical education, and all of those things we'll do."
In addition to changing nutritional guidelines by addressing the soda issue, school districts' local wellness policies' components should include focusing on tobacco prevention in grades four and five, promoting active lifestyles and creating an obesity prevention program that includes sequential wellness education for grades K-5.
"There's so much," Boardman said. "The committee will have a lot to address."