5 Aug 2020

Primary pupils happy to be fizzy drink-free

From Checkpoint, 5:55 pm on 5 August 2020

Are sugary drinks a fizzer? A group of primary school students from Porirua think so.

- Video by Samuel Rillstone

For more than 20 years, sugary drinks have been banned at Glenview School, and students there say it's given their education and lives a big boost.

Today they travelled into Wellington to tell politicians they want the government to ban sugary drinks at all schools in New Zealand.

A class of 10- and 11-year-olds may not be your typical lobby group - but today their message is simple. They want sugary drinks out - and water in.

Joe Tanielu, 10, and Taloi Talei, 11, say they want the government to introduce a nationwide ban.

"We're going to try and convince the government to help the children at school, so they will drink more water," Joe said.

"Water really helps your brain to function while you're learning," Taloi said.

At the moment, it's up to schools and their boards of trustees if they want to ban sugary drinks. Glenview School became water-only 25 years ago.

"Sugar in schools doesn't really help your brain to function while you're learning, so it's better if we drink water cause it helps your body," Taloi said.

Today these students are at the FIZZ summit, held in a small church hall in the shadow of Parliament.

They are here to talk about how being sugary-drinks free has helped them, and why they think politicians should introduce the same rules nationwide.

Those listening included Green Party Minister for Women and Associate Health Minister Julie-Anne Genter, National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti, and TOP's Hutt South candidate Dr Ben Wylie-van Eerd.

The pupils were asked what their parents and siblings thought about their school being water only.

"They [your parents] think it's good because you know you'll be healthier longer," said one student. But he went on to say that his big sister did not like the ban because "she's used to eating a lot of junk food".

"If your parents know that you're healthy, they won't be that much worried about you," another added.

Another said his sister did not mind because she knew it was healthier not to drink fizzy drinks and she usually drank iced tea instead.

"My sisters and my brothers, they don't like drinking fizzy or eating sugar, they like drinking water and milk," another added.

The students then handed over policy briefs to the politicians present.

Reti said he supported schools being sugar free, but National would not make it compulsory.

"No, we believe parents and teachers make the best decisions, and so we'll back them with information, this is a call for schools and boards of trustees, but we're indicating our intention - it's a good thing."

Genter was all for sugar free.

"So far there's been good uptake, we'd like to resource that better and see if the sector wants us to go further, we can look at mandating it."

Wylie-van Eerd said on the strength of what happened at Parliament today, TOP would be happy to back a water only schools' initiative.

Outside school gates in Wellington, most parents on the school run liked the idea of a nationwide school ban on sugary drinks, saying they should be banned because they were not needed.

At least one parent disagreed however, saying they were alright in moderation.