"This legislation is absolutely critical, not only for bringing more healthy food into our schools, but also because California is facing an obesity epidemic," the governor said at a Monday news conference.
Bob Achermann, a lobbyist for the California-Nevada Soft Drink Association, said his group would fight against expanding the soft drink ban to high schools. He argued it would not keep sodas out of teenagers' hands.
"They can bring them to school, they can get them after school," he said. "They're high school students, they're almost adults."
In 2003, California became the first state to ban the sale of soft drinks in middle and elementary schools, over the objections of the soft drink industry. Several school districts, including Los Angeles, already impose the soda ban in high schools.
Schwarzenegger also urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would only allow high schools to sell soda 30 minutes before and after the school day. During the day, schools could sell water, milk, sports drinks and drinks that are at least 50 percent fruit juice with no added sweeteners.
In addition, he is backing a proposal to update and expand nutritional standards for food sold in school vending machines and snack bars. Under the bill, food would have to meet a 35-10-35 standard, meaning no more than 35 percent of its calories could come from fat, no more than 10 percent could come from saturated fat and no more than 35 percent of its weight could be sugar.
The standards were adopted in 16 schools under a 2003 bill but were not expanded statewide because funding wasn't approved.