Vance schools buck trend with soda companies

Sep. 25, 2013 @ 07:30 PM

Vance County Schools remain among a dwindling number of school districts that still allow soda companies to advertise on school grounds.

For them, the tie is a small amount of revenue and scoreboards and little else — including availability for use.

The national survey doesn’t link its findings to obesity rates, which are holding steady. And superintendent Ronald Gregory doubts students are troubled by offerings in the school system, courtesy of the good work from child nutrition director Phyllis Newcomb.

“In the machines in the schools, they have Gatorade, water, and at Southern, Pepsi does their machines. There’s some diet sodas there,” Gregory said. “The kids can’t get to them until the lunch period is over, or at the end of the day. Northern is just water.

“I can assure you, our kids are not getting fat from anything in the school. Phyllis follows to the letter all the things that have to be served: size, size of bun, ounces of burger, all that stuff. She’s relentless like that. Anything with obesity didn’t take place at schools.”

In a survey by the government and recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of districts allowing such advertising dropped from 47 percent to 34 percent from 2006. The survey is done every six years.

Terri Hedrick, public information officer for the school system, confirmed the only advertisements for soft drink companies are on scoreboards in stadiums and gymnasiums. The school system also benefits from proceeds and gets additional funding from one company.

“They get a little bit of money, but mostly what it has been about is providing scoreboards,” Gregory said. “Coca-Cola gives helmet awards at Northern. We don’t have it at Southern.

“That’s basically where we get any resources. They’ll buy the scoreboards for you, but that’s the extent.”

In the survey of more than 800 school districts nationwide, the survey discovered many systems are taking money from soda companies and banning junk food from vending machines. The systems banning junk food in vending machines was 30 percent in 2006 and 44 percent for 2012.

The CDC did not link the statistics with the number of children who are overweight and obese. Government statistics report the obesity rate among children at 17 percent and holding steady.

“There are lots and lots of factors that go into obesity rates,” Nancy Brener said. She’s the lead author on the study, and a health scientist at the CDC.

Diet and exercise at home are believed to be as important as what happens in schools, according to most experts.

In Vance County, Hedrick said students only have access to soft drink vending machines at Southern Vance but not during school hours. Northern Vance has bottled water vending machines.

“Machines are on timers, and only come on when allowed,” Gregory said.

VCS gets a portion of proceeds from sales at Northern from Coca-Cola and at Southern from Pepsi-Cola. Southern also receives additional funding from Pepsi-Cola.

There are no incentives given to the schools from the sales.

In the CDC report:

• Of districts allowing schools to sell soft drinks, the percentage receiving a portion of sales receipts fell from 82 percent in 2006 to 69 percent in 2012.

• Of districts allowing soda sales, the amount that received cash awards, equipment donations or other incentives from soda companies fell from 52 percent to 34 percent.

• The percentage of districts that require physical education class in elementary schools stayed flat, at about 94 percent.

Hedrick said the school system, as required by the state, does provide physical education classes each week for elementary school students.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.