That's what happened in New York City, where school officials recently limited drinks to 100 percent milk, juice and water. Even with those tough restrictions, the Snapple Beverage Group signed an exclusive water and juice school vending contract. And New York schools still made $40 million out of the deal.
The School District of Philadelphia, which has been pondering an exclusive beverage contract with either the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. or the Pepsi Bottling Group, also should be aiming for those high standards.
But there's cause for worry. The School Reform Commission is expected to unveil its beverage contract proposal tomorrow. It may trumpet a deal that has some appearance of reform but in fact falls short.
It won't be surprising, for instance, if the SRC proposes banning soda pop from the schools. District CEO Paul Vallas has long vowed to kick the carbonated stuff out.
And that would be good. But a preliminary beverage policy circulated last month indicates too many junk drinks would remain.
Under it, 100 percent fruit juices would be required in buildings for students from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade by July 2005. Kids still could buy "ade" drinks (everything from fruit punch to sweetened iced tea) in the warmer months. The proposal also would allow sweetened milk drinks that are just 51 percent real milk. There'd be no 100 percent juice requirement in high schools.
If that's the shape of the final beverage contract, then parents and child health workers have a right to be upset.
The SRC can do the right thing by proposing a policy, such as New York's, that will make the district money - but not at the expense of students' health.
Real juice and milk can be high in calories and fat, too. But maybe the SRC will acknowledge that, unlike sweetened drinks, they pack real nutritional value.
Better still, maybe the SRC will see that schools are the best place to teach nutritional lessons that will keep youngsters healthy now - and for life.