? The Problem.Perhaps the greatest challenge to a healthy lifestyle in the United States today is the inclusion of carbonated soft drinks in the individual diet. This is particularly true in the diets of teenagers and younger children. Sales of carbonated soft drinks in elementary, middle and high schools are of particular concern to parents and consumer action groups.Fueled by aggressive and effective marketing in schools and the population in general, carbonated soft drinks became a multi billion dollar business. In supermarkets, newspapers, television and radio and in printed media, soft drink companies spend aggressively to promote their message of supposed good health and refreshment.
Evidence is starting to emerge however that soft drinks are not good for the health of the individual and changes are required to ensure and establish a healthy life style for the soft drink consumer.? Characteristics of Carbonated Soft Drinks.Carbonated soft drinks are widely consumed and present a unique problem, Although they are water based, much of their taste and appeal comes from the addition of significant amounts of sugar, sugar substitutes and other chemicals that are harmful to health.
A good portion of their appeal however, comes from the promotion of the products in a way that appeals to younger customers.Beverages containing significant of sugars stimulate the pancreas, boosting insulin levels and taking the body out of its natural fat burning state. Colas, in particular, contain caffeine, sugar, sodium and acid that are extremely destructive to human tissue.? Effect on Youth.High levels of carbonated soft drinks have been traced to the increase in Childhood Obesity. Obesity is a major health problem for both adults and children.
A surge of obesity among children is resulting in an increase in the rate of diabetes and other types of systemic health problems.In the last two decades, the incidence of obesity among adults and children has risen nearly 50 percent. As defined by federal standards, approximately 30 percent of adults and 25 percent of children are considered obese today.
The sale of carbonated soft drink products is a major business by large corporations and advertising is a major component in the marketing mix. The messages communicated in an effective marketing campaign are powerful and subtle for all listeners particularly children and teenager who have not yet developed a frame of reference that allows understanding.In a recent article by Susan Linn and Diane E. Levin that studied the impact of advertising on children, the authors concluded.
"Children are especially vulnerable to the impact of advertising. A recent study out of Stanford University found that one 30-second commercial can influence the brand choices of children as young as 2. Repeated exposures to ads are even more effective.
Very young children don't distinguish between a commercial and television programming. And children under 8 aren't able to understand that ads are created to convince people to buy products". (Stop Marketing 'Yummy Food' to Children http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0620/p09s01-coop.html).
In the past decade, techniques for marketing unhealthy food to children have become increasingly sophisticated, subtle and effective. Marketing junk food in schools is a growth industry that includes direct advertising, sponsorship of sports teams and involvement with fundraisers that add revenue to schools for activities. The media is increasing dominated by advertising dollars from the food industry. Some estimates of total food promotional budgets exceed $30 Billion and growing.
Childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent years. Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year and the annual cost to society for obesity of all forms is exceeds $90 Billion.There are indirect effects of obesity as well. In a recent study, Dr. Ramin Alemzadeh, MD, explains that "diabetes is not the only issue related to childhood obesity.
Obese children may have greater difficulty with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, orthopedic problems, sleeping habits, as well as self-esteem and peer relationships.".Dr. Alemzadeh cites studies indicating that adults who were obese children also face significant health and social difficulties in later life.? Soft Drinks in the School.
Parents are often told that it is their job to promote healthy nutrition, even as corporations undermine their efforts by spending billions of dollars marketing junk food to children. This results in a barrage of food industry ads that promote unhealthy fares, from the cereal boxes and TV ads at home to the soda and snack vending machines at school. Some 10,000 food industry ads a year for unhealthy foods are aimed to children, from 3 year-old to teenage years. Ninety-five percent of these ads promote fast food, candy, sugared cereals and soft drinks.From the school board to the statehouse, efforts to ban sugary foods and combat childhood obesity are being debated around the nation however. This increased level of awareness is beginning to take effect but continued effort is required.
Solving the problem requires efforts at all levels. Consumer protection groups are pressuring the U.S. Congress and Administration and efforts are well underway at the state level to curb aggressive advertising.
In response, suppliers have increased their promotion efforts and many schools, under continued budget pressure, often supplement their incomes with proceeds from soda and candy fund raising and booster club sales. In spite of the massive promotion budgets of food manufacturers however, a focused effort by consumer groups and parents is well underway.? What Can Parents Do?.It is easy to blame large corporations who manufacture soft drinks and other fast food products but the solution to the problem ultimately rests with parents and the family. School programs are subject to public scrutiny and input from concerned parents can be particularly effective.The American Dietetic Association and the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, offers suggestions on how you can improve your child's nutrition at school and at home:.
? Get familiar with the menu. Keep a current school lunch menu and discuss it with your child. Talk about making healthy choices. Many schools offer choices that meet guidelines for good nutrition if students make the right choices.
? Ask questions. Find out who decides what is for lunch. Who determines school policies on vending machines and snacks in the cafeteria and student store.? Get involved. Join or start a parent advisory council for the school food service program.
Learn how parents and students can participate in the decision making process.? Support the nutrition education efforts at school. If your school has an edible garden, volunteer to help. If none exists, create one.
Sustainable Table has information about how to start one.? Encourage your child to pack his own lunch. Help him pick healthy choices that are fun to eat, such as string cheese, fruit, carrot sticks and pudding cups.
If he packs it, he will be more likely to eat it.? Make your child a savvy media consumer. Kids are bombarded with TV advertisements for sugary cereal and treats. Point out the techniques advertisers use to make their products attractive.? Teach your child about nutritional labels. It will help her reading skills and make her a smart consumer if you make a game out of finding out how many names there are for "sugar" in a label.
? Advocate for the laws you want. Write to your representatives at the state and federal level. Express your concerns about school lunches, the placement of vending machines at your child's school or requirements for physical education programs.
Source: (It Takes More Than An Apple a Day to Keep Your Child Healthy http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/showarticle/az/253).
There is progress. In a recent report commissioned by the American Beverage Association, consumption of Carbonated Soft Drinks (CSD) decreased in High Schools from 57.2% of the product mix in 2002 to 44.9% in 2005.
Similarly, the consumption of water as a percentage of the product mix increased from 9.1% to 12.7% in the same period.
Similar results were reported for Middle and Elementary Schools.Continued effort and vigilance is required.? School Budgets and Fund Raising.An important element to consider in the fight against junk food obesity is the role of junk food products in fundraising for schools. As a result of across the board budget pressure at all government levels, school boards have reduced many activities or look toward other non tax sources of funding., Fund raising events for direct activities or through booster clubs became an important source of funding for sporting and other activities.
An important source of revenue at fund raising events was the resale of soft drinks to spectators and the profit was considerable. A program that replaces carbonated soft drinks in the schools for health reasons also requires products that generate an equivalent source of revenue.? The Pure Water Element.Bottled drinking water is an ideal substitute for carbonated soft drinks if the quality is high and the taste is appealing.
Our bodies are estimated to be about 60 to 70% water. Blood is mostly water, and our muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. We need to drink water because water is needed to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to all our organs.
Water also transports oxygen to our cells, removes waste, and protects our joints and organs.Water that is pure and free of minerals and bacteria is the ideal source for the hydration of our bodies and a significant contributor to a healthy lifestyle. If you consume coffee or alcohol, you should drink at least an equal amount of water. When you are traveling on an airplane, it is good to drink 8 ounces of water for every hour you are on board the plane. If you live in an arid climate, you should add another 2 servings per day. As you can see, your daily need for water can be significant.
The best source of water is plain, pure drinking water. Purified drinking water based upon combine filtration, distillation and ozonation techniques is readily available in the market today. This process guarantees a high quality product combined with a light refreshing taste.
? Water and Fundraising ? The Private Label Program.Bottled drinking water is an ideal replacement for Soda in the fundraising process. Because of the increased demand for pure drinking water, bottled water is as saleable as soft drink sodas and many times more profitable for the fundraisers. This is because many bottled water suppliers can easily supply water that has a private label for the school and the occasion. The private label advertising feature allows the fundraiser the ability to charge a premium for the product and increase the profit on the transaction.
Soft drink or soda suppliers do not offer private labeling for their products because the strategy of these suppliers is to increase the recognition of their own brand..Jon M.
Stout has over 30 years experience founding, growing and managing entrepreneurial firms. During this time Jon developed a focused, disciplined approach to creating profitability, liquidity and wealth. He is a partner in Element H2O an Ultra Pure drinking water company based in Chantilly Virginia.
Element H2O can be located on the internet at http://www.elementh2o.com.
By: Jon Stout