September 24 — 11:00 pm, 2003

Coalition speaks up on beverage contract

Members of the Philadelphia Coalition for Healthy Children (PCHC) have been pressuring the School District to adhere to healthy nutrition standards and limit student access to sweetened beverages in schools.

PCHC members began organizing after a May School Reform Commission meeting revealed that the Commission was reviewing proposals for an exclusive soft drink beverage contract that could increase the number of school vending machines.

In June, PCHC met with Philadelphia City Council members and Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel to build political support for their cause. A resulting City Council resolution urged the SRC to hold public hearings on the sale of sweetened beverages in public schools.

At the August public hearings, the majority of the more than 30 parents, nutrition experts, teachers, and child advocates who spoke called on the SRC to ban sales of sugary drinks in schools and promote healthier eating habits among students.

Cecilia James, PCHC supporter and public school cafeteria worker, urged the SRC to put student health above its financial concerns.

"The District needs to step up to the plate and show concern that goes beyond the bottom line," said James.

According to District spokesman Vincent Thompson, the SRC is studying the public testimony given at the beverage contract hearings, and the current beverage contracts will remain in place until the Commission votes on the issue.

The Greater Philadelphia Food Trust, a nonprofit advocacy organization, spearheads the coalition, which represents seven local nutrition and health advocacy groups.

For more information, call the Food Trust at 215-568-0830 or visit www.thefoodtrust.org.

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