WASHINGTON, DC — In mid August, the American Beverage Association's (ABA) board of directors unanimously approved a new school vending policy aimed at providing lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages and limiting the availability of soft drinks in schools.

Under the new policy, the beverage industry will provide elementary schools with only water and 100 percent juice. Middle schools will only be allowed to offer nutritious and/or lower calorie beverages, such as water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks and low-calorie juice drinks. No full-calorie soft drinks or full-calorie juice drinks with 5 percent or less juice will be available in middle schools until after school. High schools will have a variety of beverage choices; however, no more than 50 percent of the vending selections will be soft drinks in high schools.

The ABA is asking beverage producers and school districts to implement the new policy as soon as possible. The policy will not supercede federal, state and local regulations already in place. ABA's board of directors represents 20 companies that comprise about 85 percent of school vending beverage sales by bottlers, according to the ABA.

“Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, and the responsibility for finding common-sense solutions is shared by everyone, including our industry,” said Susan K. Neely, ABA president and chief executive officer. “We intend to be part of the solution by increasing the availability of lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages in schools.”

ABA plans to run print and broadcast advertising to educate the public about the new policy. The beverage industry also supports physical activity initiatives across the country to encourage people to be more active. Beverage companies provide support to the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs and sponsor youth sports teams and leagues throughout the country.

“Healthy and active kids can certainly enjoy soft drinks and juice drinks, but we understand that parents want more control over what their younger children consume in school and we want to support them with this policy.” she said.