TAMPA — Sugary sodas are on the outs at Hillsborough schools.
Pepsi plans to replace the high-calorie, fizzy drinks in school vending machines with healthier options during the coming year, as part of a national initiative to combat childhood obesity.
Pepsi will offer only water to elementary students in Hillsborough. Middle school students can choose between water and 10-ounce servings of 100 percent juice products.
At high schools, Pepsi will sell diet soft drinks and low-calorie juices and teas. Sports drinks and fruit juices will be available in sizes no larger than 12 ounces.
The beverage options reflect the guidelines set by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.
"There are no shortcuts to solving the obesity problem," said Dave DeCecco, a Pepsi spokesman. "It's a good example of the public and the private sector coming together to address a complex issue."
Pepsi has a 12-year, $50-million exclusive contract with Hillsborough schools. The company is working to meet the Alliance standards at the majority of its schools nationally during the 2008-09 school year.
Hillsborough school officials don't know exactly when the healthier beverages will arrive at each campus, spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
In other news, the school district is also moving to toughen its cell phone policy. Officials want students to keep the phones off and out of sight during school hours.
Violators would have their phones turned over to an administrator and returned at the end of the day. School Board members will consider the cell phone policy Tuesday.
Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.