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Lawmakers take aim at sugary drinks in school

Bill banning sugary drinks headed for the governor’s desk


SAN ANTONIO - A bill aimed at slimming waist lines could limit the amount of available drink options in elementary and middle school vending machines.

House Bill 217 has passed both chambers of the Texas Legislature and is headed for the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill would only allow water without artificial sweetener, milk with a fat content of 1 percent or less, and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice to be sold in schools.

“I wish they had a better choice and selection versus the Gatorade and the sugary drinks,” said Christopher Tejano, whose fourth-grader attends Frances M. Rhodes Elementary School. “More apple juices, more pineapple juices, that would be nice.”

The measure would not impact Texas high schools and would not be in affect before the beginning of a school’s breakfast period and after school.

Betty Gomez’ daughter is in the third grade at Frances M. Rhodes Elementary.

She said what parents give their kids at home is their business, but because they spend so much time at school only the healthiest of options should be available.

“The caffeine in all this stuff makes these kids hyper. They can't concentrate. They can’t sit in their chairs. So why give them so much caffeine or so much sugar? It’d just be good to give them something healthy they can have in school.”

While the bill received bipartisan support some opponents said it’s another case of the government overstepping its bounds.

“Childhood obesity is a terrible problem made worse by the availability of unhealthy options at schools. However, banning all but 1 percent milk, for instance, does not make sense particularly since 2 percent and whole milk have health benefits,” said John Calyandro, executive director of the Texas Conservative Coalition. “Ultimately, parents must set the example by not permitting their children to over-indulge on sugary drinks and snacks, and firmly insisting - at the local level - that their public schools not make unhealthy options available.”

It’s unknown if Gov. Rick Perry will sign or veto the bill.

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