University bans sugary drinks on campus

University of California-San Francisco focuses on education in health sciences research, patient care, and medicine and claims it has an obligation to ensure students and faculty make healthy choices as consumers.

Although the ban is "voluntary," store-owners on campus said they felt pressured to comply to avoid receiving backlash from administrators.

Students at the University of California San Francisco will be forced to get their sugar fixes off campus beginning July 1.

Officials at the public university recently announced that on-campus vendors will no longer sell a variety of sugary beverages. The policy will eliminate sodas, energy drinks, and artificial fruit juice while zero-calorie options such as diet coke and all-natural juices will remain available. The university will continue to allow students to bring sugary drinks onto campus if they’ve been purchased elsewhere.

According to UCSF’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Campus Life Services Clare Shinnerl, the new policy directly relates to the school’s mission as a university “dedicated to defining health worldwide.”

“We want to walk the talk, so I do think we have that added responsibility as a health sciences campus,” Shinnerl told Inside Higher Ed.

The school’s beverage ban comes to fruition three years after UCSF researchers published an essay in 2012 identifying excessive sugar consumption as a leading cause for major health issues.

“A lot of this work is completed by researchers at UCSF [and] because of that we decided to take action on what our science says so that we’re really living our mission,” said Leeane Jensen, one of the school’s wellness coordinators.

Less than a week before the school announced its new policy, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of a measure requiring that health warnings be added to advertisements for sugar-sweetened drinks.

Supporters of the legislation believed the city must inform its residents of the various health risks linked to soda and other beverages in order to help curb obesity, diabetes, and other related diseases.

According to CBS News, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also agreed to implement a moratorium on publicizing sugary beverages on city-owned property and to prevent “city spending on such beverages.”

Unlike the city-wide mandates, UCSF officials claim the school’s ban is entirely voluntary. Some store-owners on campus, however, said they felt pressured to comply with the measure to avoid negative backlash from administrators.

“I felt like it was a little too rash, they are too harsh,” Kenneth Guzman, who serves as manager of an on-campus eatery called The Pub, told Inside Higher Ed.

“We could’ve just educated our customers on how to choose healthier alternatives and not punish them, taking away what they love,” Guzman said.

An online poll conducted by UCSF’s student newspaper last spring asked readers: Would you support a ban on sugary drinks at UCSF?

The results revealed students’ mixed feelings with 48 percent of readers voting in favor of a ban and 48 percent against.

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