Should sugary drinks be banned from schools: jury is split

Nearly 150 school students from 40 schools have taken part in a Citizen’s Jury to decide whether sugary drinks should be banned from schools and sporting events. The verdict: 59% said yes and 41% voted no.

The event organised by the Office of the Advocate for Children and Young People was held at the Mint in Sydney’s CBD as part of Children’s Week. It brought together close to 150 students from four Sydney schools and 36 schools from seven regions through web casting. The participating regions were Illawarra Shoalhaven, the Central Coast, Mid North Coast, Hunter New England, Western NSW, Far West NSW, and Murrumbidgee.

With more than one in five children in NSW estimated to be above a healthy weight it is critical that children and young people have a say in the solutions that can lead to better health outcomes for themselves and their peers.

The students heard factual evidence from three experts, Dr Kyra Sim from Childhood Obesity Prevention and Management, Mr Geoff Parker from the Australian Beverage Council and Alexandra Jones, Research Associate, Food Policy Division, The George Institute for Global Health.

The students were then given time to deliberate on the evidence presented to them and deliver their verdict to the Advocate for Children and Young People.

Thirteen year-old NSW Youth Advisory Council member, Sam Beatson from the Central Coast said some of the statistics were surprising.

“Today, I learned that having one soft drink a day can accumulate to a gain of six kilograms of fat in one year. It’s better to not have sugary drinks available at the school canteen where their purchase is not monitored by adults,” Sam said following his participation in the citizen jury.

Fifteen year-old NSW Youth Advisory Council member, Andie Thorpe from Sydney’s Northern Beaches said she was shocked about the statistics.

“In our deliberation we came to the conclusion that sugary drinks have no nutritional benefit for children and young people and reducing convenient access to these drinks through banning them at schools and sporting events will help cut consumption and lead to better overall health for children and young people,” Andie said.

The result of today’s citizen’s jury indicates that children and young people across NSW are mindful and concerned about their own health and that of their peers.

Prof Chris Rissel, Director of the NSW Office of Preventive Health, said his Office was implementing a number of state wide programs in schools, childcare settings and sporting associations to contribute to achieving the NSW Premier's priority of reducing childhood overweight and obesity.

"The input from the young people about sugar sweetened beverages will genuinely help inform our programs" he said.