PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- If you're going to a school sponsored event in Portland this year, don't expect to see any soda.
Soda sales are now banned at school and at school functions, including sporting events, except when non-school groups are providing the concessions off-campus. All food at school needs to meet federal nutrition standards. You can see a list of what's allowed by clicking here. Off-campus, all pre-packaged food has to meet those standards. 50 percent of prepared foods must meet the standards, too. So if you offer french fries, you also have to offer fruit.
Parents won't be able to bring in cupcakes to celebrate a child's birthday. Teachers will be encouraged to reward students with extra recess instead of food, and if food is used in celebration, it will be healthy food. These changes go for staff lounges, too.
School health coordinator Chanda Turner says this is all about practicing what the school preaches. "How you change or establish kids behavior is by giving them a chance to practice healthy behaviors. We're trying to give kids as many opportunities as possible to practice healthy decisions," Turner said.
Early studies show that cutting soda from schools does not result in kids drinking less soda. However, these moves are being made in conjunction with a lot of other efforts across the city. Healthy Portland has had an advertising blitz, showing just how many empty calories are in soda and other sugar sweetened beverages.
Coordinator Joan Ingram is excited that the timing of all this has come together. "We've been trying to parallel what's happening in the school and the community and vice versa," Ingram said.
And Rick Fortier, the Program Manager for Let's Go!, a statewide anti-childhood obesity program, says every time a school makes a step like this, it starts conversations at home. Fortier said, "A lot of times, families are looking for that direction, and so by a school making these changes and also sending information home for families on how to make the changes themselves, it not only says that they're not the only ones doing it at home, the schools are making the changes, and here's how to do it. So the school's leading by example."
You can learn more about the Let's Go! program and find tips on preventing childhood obesity by clicking here.