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Schools urged to kick the caffeine habit

27 February, 2004

Schools urged to kick the caffeine habit

Schools are no place for strung-out caffeinated kids said Green MP Sue Kedgley today, as she called on the Ministries of Health and Education to take the lead in keeping highly-caffeinated soft drinks out of schools.

Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson, congratulated Northland high school principal Haydn Hutching for banning drinks which make students hyperactive and difficult to teach. She said the government should take up Mr Hutchings initiative and extend it to all schools.

"Mr Hutching and Otamatea High School have provided an excellent example for other schools to follow," said Ms Kedgley. "This is the sort of action the Ministries of Health and Education should be taking the lead on.

"Having highly caffeinated and sugared energy drinks, such as V and Coca-Cola, in the school environment undermines the ability of children to learn because they simply can't sit still.

"One can of these sorts of drinks is about the equivalent of a drinking a few cups of strong coffee. Most parents wouldn't allow their children to drink coffee so it's absurd that schools encourage students to drink highly caffeinated drinks by having them on sale in vending machines and tuckshops.

"Children are particularly sensitive to the stimulating effects of caffeine and many teachers and parents would acknowledge the difficulty in teaching hyperactive kids," she said.

"There is also concern in the scientific community that the brain growth and development could be affected in children who drink large amounts of coffee."

Ms Kedgley urged schools to emulate the success of Parawai School, Te Puna School and the Rudolph Steiner schools - winners of the Terrific Tuckshop Award at last year's New Zealand Food Awards - which have all experienced remarkable changes in student behaviour since they instituted healthy menus and drinks.

"These schools have taken the step of removing highly-sugared and caffeinated drinks and food from their menus and have noticed obvious benefits among their students' behaviour and learning ability. I am sure Otamatea High School will too, and I hope all New Zealand schools will follow its example.

"As a nation we all have to improve the food our children eat. What better place to start than our schools?" she asked.

ENDS

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