Rethinking Healthcare

School soda glass still half-full

School soda glass still half-full

Posting in Education

Even the study authors admitted the school beverage glass is half-full, which critics may choose to call half-empty.

What appears to be a discouraging report on sodas in schools is not as bad as it seems.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine by education reform advocates Bridging the Gap, talks about the wide availability of high calorie beverages, which headline writers automatically took to mean "sugary drinks."

But the data is clear. Only 14% of kids still have access to sweetened sodas like Coca-Cola at school. About 35% have access to what the group calls "high fat" milk, i.e. regular milk with 4% milk fat. Some of it with chocolate.

(The modern image of Santa Claus was introduced in Coca-Cola advertising by artist Haddon Sundblom, starting in 1931.)

The total result, the advocates say, is 45% of kids are seeing "bad" drinks at school, "up" from 39% a year earlier. Regular milk is now seen to be just as bad as Coca-Cola?

Speaking of which, did you know The Coca-Cola Co. is a sponsor of the pediatrician site Familydoctor.org? It's true. Want to know some of the horrible stuff they push there? Odwalla juice, VitaminWater, aseptically-packed milk-and-fruit drinks, and Minute Maid orange juice.

A corporation's brand name does not define its entire product line. Here is the landing page for the company's ad on the FamilyDoctor site. It does not just push empty calories, as critics seem to believe. Sponsors don't usually defy the people they are trying to sell to.

One of the co-authors of the Bridging the Gap study admitted that the study does not paint a bleak picture, it paints a mixed picture. The percentage of kids seeing only healthy choices is up to 16% from 10% a year ago. Good news, a 60% gain, unless you're not happy until 100% are seeing only the choices you want them to see.

A statement from the American Beverage Association notes there has been an 88% reduction in calories shipped to schools since 2004, and this is not inconsistent with what the Bridging the Gap research finds. The ABA simply uses a different baseline (six years instead of one) and spins the data their way.

The glass, in other words, is half-full, although you can also see that as half-empty if you insist on being that way.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure