Two Taranaki retailers have banned sales of sugar-sweetened beverages to children on their way to school in the morning.
Stratford's Northern Dairy and CR Dairy in Eltham are supporting a Taranaki Public Health Unit's 'Tap into Water' project to help combat child obesity, tooth decay and other health issues.
Jill Nicholls, Taranaki DHB Health Promoter, said the public health unit has been working with local schools to become "water only" and have started visiting South Taranaki retailers, including dairies, petrol stations and supermarkets to provide information on how they can help reduce the amount of sugar a child has each day.
She said high sugar in beverages can interfere with concentration, learning and problem behaviour.
"Research shows that on average a 600ml bottle of fizzy has more than 16 teaspoons of sugar. The Ministry of Health recommends that a child has less than 3-5 teaspoons of sugar per day and an adult less than six teaspoons per day," said Ms Nicholls.
Both Northern Dairy and CR Dairy will not sell sweet beverages to children before 9am on school days.
Taranaki catering company KDJ would also drop 600ml bottles of sugar sweetened beverages and introduce lower sugar drinks at the Aquatic Centre Rock Pool Cafe, TSB Stadium and Yarrow Stadium.
"Education can help to change attitudes, but changing the environment is the only way to really improve all the complex health problems associated with sugar sweetened beverages," Ms Nicholls said.
"That's not easy to achieve when sugary drinks are sold at school and on the way to school, so we appreciate the changes these retailers are making."
The project also aims to get decile 1-4 schools in Taranaki to adopt a water only policy by June 2017.
"Research has found poor diet and nutrition are associated with lower academic achievement. Sugar sweetened beverages have no nutritional value and if the calories from regular excessive sugar consumption are not burned off, it can lead to long term health complications like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, raised blood pressure and tooth decay."
In the coming weeks the public health unit also planned to visit North Taranaki retailers near the schools they were working with.
"Local retailers will be given 'Tap into Water' resources and those who are willing to support the project will receive a Certificate of Recognition to display in store."
"As a community we all need to work together and create an environment that supports better choices. This includes less consumption of sugar sweetened beverages for our children."