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Clampdown on sugary drinks presents economic challenges

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Principals of two Corporate Area inner-city schools have welcomed the proposed ban on bagged juices and other sugary drink as a step in the right direction but questioned the success of getting the desired buy-in from parents and guardians in light of the harsh economic realities they face in providing for their children.

Kandi-Lee Crooks-Smith, principal of the Allman Town Primary School in Kingston, told The Gleaner that she, too, had made a very bold step eight years ago in banning sodas in her school - a move, she said, that was still presenting some challenges.

"From experience, we have banned sodas in our school for eight years now. We don't sell it on our compound. We ask parents not to give it to the kids, and I can tell you that it has not been easy. I was told that my tuck shop would not make any money because sodas sell," she explained.




"The vendors still sell the sodas outside the gate and parents would still buy them. So it's not going to be an easy transition, but at least there will be some control on the compound," she said.

The principal also urged the Government to make sure that adequate research is done, in addition to ensuring that there are viable and healthy options.

"We can't just assume that because it's a sweet juice that it is not good. We have to do the research. Sometimes when you look at the sodium content versus the sugar content, you would be surprised as to what is in the juice," she said.

"The reality is also that they are cheaper and easier to access. Kids do need sugar, too. It's not all bad. It's just in what quantity."

Teachers play more hopscotch than students

Principal at the George Headley Primary School Aretha Willie shared similar sentiments, stressing that there are many other factors that lead to obesity and other lifestyle diseases.

"Our children sit and they play with these gadgets. They don't move. I went through the trouble of hiring an artist to draw a 'hopscotch' (game) in the schoolyard, and I think the teachers play there more than the students," she said.

"As a parent, I know that the bagged juice is not the best option, but it's what the average parent can afford. However, if the ministry places a ban on all sweet stuff, then by all means, we will comply."