Sugary drinks in vending machines no longer allowed

Alexander Schmidt

Recently, the vending machines at Utica have been shut down due to the sugary drinks being sold during school hours. Many students are upset because they rely on these drinks to help keep them awake.
“I can understand why the energy drinks wouldn’t be allowed during school hours, seeing how they are filled with all these ingredients,” senior Ashlynn Gazaway said. “If the school is going to cut off our energy drinks and still force us to wake up at five o’clock just to get here on time. Allowing us to be able to have that small caffeine fix would help allow students to wake up a bit faster and allows us to get more prepared for the day.”
This entire year while the vending machines were up and running all during school hours, students and staff were breaking the rules unknowingly. There are laws against students having access to buying energy/sugary drinks during school hours.
“We were in violation of federal law on what can be sold in schools. I didn’t realize all the machines were operational during the day. I honestly don’t know the name of the law, but it’s been in place for almost 10 years now,” principal Thomas Lietz said. “They have to follow strict guidelines and can only sell certain days a week. I have no issue with it as I don’t think the options in the vending machines are ideal or healthy. They’re great for sugar and caffeine spikes and drops. They don’t help any student, long term, manage their day. The science on that is pretty clear. Sounds like a really good question for our health and nutrition teachers.”
These guidelines require schools to follow rules like any snack would be limited to 200 calories. Entrées sold individually would be limited to 350 calories. All snacks in the vending machines must be either some fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, a protein food, whole-grain-rich, or a combination food.
“The law provides waivers for “fundraising,” and we use the school store to that end,” Lietz said. “It has been less during the COVID years, but prior to that, they released funds for everything from student travel to student council initiatives at school, to support clubs and activities. Whatever was needed – it was just centralizing the process.”
Most students do not know the reason why they cannot use the vending machines. They have been using these machines since the beginning of the year and suddenly didn’t have that privilege anymore.
“I personally think that the decision by the superintendent to turn off the vending machines during lunch and between classes is a short-sighted one. Students should have a right to buy drinks with the money they earn and bring, and if they happen to be late to class as a result, that is on them and nobody else,” junior Eilonwy Stephens said.
All schools can sell water, carbonated water, plain milk (flavored or unflavored milk), and juices made only of fruits/vegetables. High schools can sell all those drinks as well as caffeinated sodas as large as 12 ounces, but they cannot have more than 60 calories.
“The vending machines being shut down upset me because I’m not able to eat before school and by the time I want to grab something it’s second hour,” sophomore Melody Gagne said. “Another part of it is the school store line is sometimes a little long and the only open vending machines are all healthy foods and it kind of feels like they’re telling us not to eat our favorite snacks but to eat all the healthy ones instead.”