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Creating Soda-Free Schools and Smart Snack Solutions

One way to help children grow up at a healthy weight is to cut back on serving them sugary drinks. Reducing added sugar can lead to many health benefits. It can prevent type 2 diabetes, cavities, unhealthy weight gain, even heart disease. School districts are making changes that limit added sugar for hundreds of children who attend their schools every day.

North Slope Borough School District, Utqiaġvik and surrounding villages — Creating soda-free elementary and middle schools

North Slope Borough School District, Utqiaġvik and surrounding villages — Creating soda-free elementary and middle schools

Years of support from students, families and athletic booster clubs set the stage for a new change in the North Slope Borough School District during the 2017-18 school year. All elementary and middle schools in this district are now soda-free.

Added sugars are in all kinds of foods, from sweet cereals, to granola bars, cookies, cakes and ice cream.

But do you know how children get most of their added sugar each day?

They drink it. Choosing to cut back on soda is a big step toward reducing unhealthy added sugars in children's diets.

The idea for "soda-free" schools began years ago by North Slope students who wanted to be healthier during their sports seasons. The high school football and volleyball teams in Utqiaġvik started a "Stop the Pop" pledge to cut out drinking soda during the season. This pledge expanded as more people in the community wanted a change. The athletic booster clubs decided to stop selling soda at after-school sporting events. This effort finally became a school district policy that designated entire school buildings as "soda-free." This means soda can't be sold at schools, and it also can't be provided to students for free or brought from home.

Watch this Play Every Day video​ to learn about the North Slope school district's efforts to create soda-free schools

Mat-Su Borough School District — Following Smart Snacks and new nutrition standards

North Slope Borough School District, Utqiaġvik and surrounding villages — Creating soda-free elementary and middle schools

Going soda free is just one of the many ways to help students learn healthy habits. Some schools are changing their whole snack program to incorporate healthier, low-sugar and whole grain options for their kids.

Several years ago, the Mat-Su Borough School District took action to follow A Guide to Smart Snacks in Schools for their students. This program requires that "competitive foods"—snacks and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, snack carts, á la carte lines and fundraising efforts during the school day—are nutritious and promote health.

If students want a slice of pizza from the high school's Snack Shack, now it's got a tasty whole wheat crust. The portion size is also smaller — 10 slices per pie compared to the 8 slices they sold before.

One of the best ways to help young Alaskans grow up at a healthy weight is to pass and implement a strong school wellness policy. Preventing obesity at an early age can help children maintain a healthy weight later in life. Seventy percent of obese children become obese adults. Evidence of the importance of a strong school wellness policy—also known as a student nutrition and physical activity policy—is so clear that the federal government requires that every school district receiving funds for school breakfast or lunch have a policy. Alaska school surveys indicate a clear relationship between implementing Smart Snacks nutrition standards and the declining availability of candy and salty snacks in Alaska schools.

This is what Alaska communities are doing to help kids grow up healthy. What can your community do? Click here to find more ideas to provide healthy foods, drinks and physical activity for kids.​​​​​​​