Soda may cause tooth decay and Frito pie may contribute to students' obesity, but school officials say the money earned selling junk food is essential to pay for school activities - from cross-country running to the video club.
Juneau-Douglas High School receives $75,000 from the Juneau School District every year for activities, but that doesn't cover the cost of school-sponsored activities for close to 900 students, which is probably more than $1 million yearly, according to Assistant Principal Laury Roberts Scandling.
"I asked Sandy Wagner (JDHS activities director) the total amount of cash and in-kind contributions this community comes up with to support activities; she said between $900,000 and a million a year," Scandling said.
That $900,000 generally is raised by students through car washes, bakes sales and sponsorships. The majority of it pays for coaches' salaries. Soda vending machines contribute another $20,000 for activity expenses.
"As distasteful as commercial vending may be to some people, we don't have the luxury to overlook it as an option, and we (as a school) are not alone," Scandling said.
Elementary and middle schools in Juneau have vending machines, though they restrict the sales of soft drinks in favor of juices and water. According to Sean McBride of the National Soft Drink Association in Washington, D.C., beverage sales contribute more than $100 million to school activities nationwide.
Most schools in the country have at least one vending machine, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most schools also offer pizza, cookies and cakes as part of an a la carte menu similar to that offered by Mac's Cache, a food store at JDHS. One-fifth of schools offer branded, commercially produced foods such as Taco Bell burritos or Domino's pizza at least once a week, the agency said.
Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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