SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Soda, cola, or pop – no matter what you call it, it’s likely to continue to be sold at schools around New Mexico. One legislator tried to prohibit soda sales, but his bill was tabled in a Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday.
“This bill bans soft drinks from being sold, vended, or given out in schools,” bill sponsor Sen. Gregg Schmedes (R-Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe & Torrance) told the Senate Education Committee. “This just creates a universal standard within our schools, that we’re not going to allow kids to be having access to these drinks during school hours.”
Schmedes explained that such a ban is needed. Various research agencies have connected sodas and other sugary drinks to conditions such as diabetes, weight gain, kidney disease, and other health effects, he says.”We need to take action,” Schmedes told the committee. “My vision for our schools is that if there is something present that is not for [student] education or their wellbeing, let’s get rid of it.”
The bill, after some adjustments, would have banned sales during school hours. But there would be exceptions for after-hours fundraising events and concession sales at sporting events.
Several members of the public spoke in favor of a ban on soda. “I agree with this bill because [soda] is unneeded,” Anthony, a student at Rio Grande Preparatory Institute, said. “We should focus entirely on school.”
Others spoke in opposition. The bill “is not needed,” Adrian Chavez, who works for PepsiCo, said. “Current USDA regulations to limit beverage calories in schools are already in place and [are] followed by schools across New Mexico.”
The USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] currently discourages regular consumption of sugary beverages, an analysis from the state’s Legislative Education Study Committee notes. Under USDA guidelines, different grade levels have different standards. Still, the current standards do not restrict the sale of caffeinated beverages to high school students, the analysis notes.
Rebutting the naysayers, Schmedes posed a rhetorical question to the committee: “Who are you going to trust more, beverage companies . . .or our own LESC [Legislative Education Study Committee] to care for our kids?” But the appeal wasn’t enough.
The Senate Education Committee ultimately voted to table the bill. Sen. Martin Hickey (D-Bernalillo) expressed concern that the bill could hurt sports and community programs.