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Students urge campus: Put down the soda

Kendall Donohoe and Heeseon Yeon, both BPH, are members of ReThink Your Drink, a student group urging the campus community to choose healthier beverage choices. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Before you quaff a sugary soda or sports drink, one student group on campus is hoping you’ll stop and consider a healthier option instead.

Pharmacy students in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences have teamed up with the Boston Public Health Commission to promote a health-conscious initiative on campus called ReThink Your Drink.

“A huge portion of added sugar in people’s diets comes from drinks, rather than food,” said Kendall Donohoe, BPH’18, one of the student organizers. “This is a way to focus on eliminating those sugary beverages.”

The campaign, created by the Boston Public Health Commission last summer and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, utilizes a “traffic light” icon in participating grocery stores to alert consumers to the nutritional value of certain beverages. A green light drink contains up to 5 grams of sugar per 12 ounces. A red light drink contains more than 12 grams of sugar per 12 ounces.

You would never just eat a handful of sugar cubes, but when you’re drinking some of these drinks, that’s basically what you’re doing.
—Kendall Donohoe, BPH’18

According to BPHC, “Choosing healthier drinks is an essential step in maintaining a healthy weight and helping to reverse the devastating cost of the obesity epidemic.”

In partnership with BPHC, Donohoe, her classmate Heeseon Yeon, BPH’18, and a few other pharmacy students have been working to get Northeastern community members to rethink their drinks as well.

“We think this is a great opportunity where Bouvé can reach out to the entire campus community, and we can all be involved in something together,” Yeon said.

ReThink Your Drink

Earlier this year, members of the group surveyed the campus to find out where students, faculty, and staff would like to see new filtered water bottle refilling stations. The campus ReThink Your Drink group received more than 500 recommendations and has since been working with the Office of Sustainability and Energy Management and the Facilities Division to implement some of those recommendations.

Another of the group’s initiatives—to create a map of all the campus’ existing water fountains and water bottle refilling stations—has already come to fruition. Those locations have been incorporated into the NUGO app, so no matter where you are on campus, you can quickly find the closest water fountain or refilling station. The feature is offered as a selection under the app’s “Near Me” tab.

Last month, the ReThink Your Drink group staffed a heavily-attended information booth at the 10th annual Bouvé Health Fair and Flu Clinic, where members gave out water bottles and alerted students to the levels of sugar in some common beverages.

“You would never just eat a handful of sugar cubes, but when you’re drinking some of these drinks, that’s basically what you’re doing,” Donohoe said.

As the students work to expand their message, they hope to change the culture around drink choices.

“We want to build a culture of people who choose water even when the other options are there,” Donohoe said.

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