Our nation's schools are learning environments for much more than reading, writing and arithmetic. We know that schools can play a meaningful role in shaping our children's health by helping to teach them about the importance of a balanced diet and exercise - something our industry supports. That is why we want to recognize National School Lunch Week, taking place now through Friday.
In a news release issued last week, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that this week "reminds us how important it is that our children be healthy and active, that they not go hungry, and that they have access to nutritious meals." We agree.
In fact, in an effort to improve nutritional standards for children in schools, our industry has worked with distinguished Members of Congress over the last few years on this very issue as it relates to beverages in school vending machines. We have already delivered on our commitment to change the beverage landscape in schools with our national School Beverage Guidelines, which have removed full-calorie soft drinks and replaced them with more lower-calorie, nutritious, smaller-portion beverage options. With the guidelines, our companies have slashed beverage calories shipped to schools by a dramatic 88 percent since 2004. Under the voluntary guidelines, 100 percent juice, low-fat milk and bottled water are allowed in elementary and middle schools, with the addition of diet beverages and calorie-capped sports drinks, flavored waters and teas in high schools.
These guidelines are having a meaningful impact on our nation's schoolchildren, and we are proud to be doing our part.