A Marlborough school has been recognised for its efforts in helping children ditch sugar-laden fizzy drinks.
Riverlands School, in Blenheim, has been commended by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board for becoming a Water Only School.
This follows a move by staff to clampdown on sugary drinks in a bid to improve the “devastating” health effects of sugary drinks.
Principal Dave Parsons says it is time for schools to act to help prevent future health issues among children.
READ MORE: * Fizz-free, water-only schools could be ‘tipping point’ in fight against obesity * Ministry of Health urges water-only schools, no sugary drinks
“We’ve been thinking about implementing this for a while. We used to have small fizzy drink bottles on sale at school discos and the children were openly saying, “I’m on a sugar high”. They were aware of it and thought it was cool.
“This isn’t a ban, we’re not turning this into a punitive thing, it’s about encouraging and reinforcing the message. The feedback I’ve had from the board and our families has all been really positive.
“Drinking sweetened drinks, such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices and so-called ‘sports drinks’, can have a huge negative effect on children’s dental health as well as adding to the accumulative effect of obesity and diabetes.
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“The childhood obesity and diabetes figures for New Zealand are truly horrific and are set to grow greatly if we, as a community, do not do something about it now.”
The school has been following Water Only Schools Guidelines as laid out by the Ministry of Health.
Soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks and energy drinks can contain five to seven teaspoons of sugar in a 250ml glass with some 750ml sports drinks containing up to 16 teaspoons.
The school has been given a special sign from the health board to recognise their efforts.
Dave says children are an easy target through “insidious” advertising campaigns and staff have been teaching them about healthier choices.
“Fortunately I see at our school that we have many children drinking only water at school with very few having juice in their drink bottles and we obviously have parents who also see the dangers posed by drinking sugary drinks.
“We are continuing to promote water as the only choice and option at school and we are aiming to have this transferred to our school sports teams as well.”