CHARLESTON, W.Va. _ The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) has recognized 24 county school systems for their strong health and wellness programs.
The counties elected to not serve soft drinks during the school day as part of an effort to limit access to unhealthy snacks and beverages. These counties are Barbour, Berkeley, Braxton, Doddridge, Gilmer, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Harrison, Jefferson, Lincoln, Marshall, Mason, Mineral, Monongalia, Morgan, Ohio, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Ritchie, Webster and Wetzel.
“Countless research shows children with poor nutrition score lower on vocabulary, reading, math and general knowledge tests,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “These counties should be commended for going beyond state policy and eliminating the sale of soft drinks during the school day.”
State Board of Education policy prohibits the sale of sodas in elementary and middle schools and requires that only healthy drinks are sold. County boards may opt to permit the sale of soft drinks in high schools except during breakfast and lunch periods. Recent policy updates that go into effect July 1 also prohibit the sale of caffeine beverages, including soft drinks.
The move to limit soda sales comes at a time when one in three children born in West Virginia today will likely develop diabetes by the time they grow up. The state is consistently among the top three states for obesity with about a third of its residents considered obese and more considered overweight, according to the state Bureau of Public Health. Extra weight can lead to arthritis, some cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems.
"We are facing an obesity epidemic,” said West Virginia Board of Education member Barbara Fish. “It’s important for students and parents to understand how serious the lifelong complications of obesity can be. Schools can really make a key difference in student health and wellness.”
For more information, contact Rick Goff, executive director for the WVDE’s Office of Child Nutrition, at (304) 558-2709, or the Communications Office at (304) 558-2699.
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