Although Kansas has taken steps to make the content of their school vending machines healthier this year, some of those decisions are in jeopardy now that the Pepsi corporation is meeting with the Kansas Board of Education. Lobbyists for the company are asking school officials to abandon its planned soda ban and allow diet soda to be sold in school hallways, reports the Topeka Capitol-Journal.
This summer, new USDA regulations about vending machine offerings will go into effect. As stipulated in the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, many beverages will now come in smaller sizes, including sports drinks and juices.
While this federal law will not prevent schools’ abilities to sell soda altogether, Kansas has voluntarily decided to go further than these regulations and remove sodas from their buildings. Unsurprisingly, Pepsi is not pleased that Kansas schools are planning to make their own policies stronger than required and has sent in lobbyists in an attempt to get the state to backtrack.
The company argues that since the impending changes are already likely to cut into their profit margins, it’s not fair to deprive them of soda sales, as well. They maintain that keeping diet sodas stocked in school vending machines is a good compromise. After all, why isn’t the Kansas State Board of Education considering the well-being of the Pepsi-Cola corporation?!
If soda companies getting involved in school business is news to you, it’s time this secret is exposed. Teenage soda consumption is a big business, and for that reason, 80% of public high schools have exclusivity contracts with either Pepsi or Coca-Cola.
Though student nutrition is a concern for most school districts, so is money. Cash-deficient schools are faced with making the tough call between eliminating vending machines and being able to afford sports equipment and teachers’ assistances funded by big soda’s money.
Kansas is no stranger to this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario. In the 90s, Topeka Unified School District was able to built an athletic facility with the Pepsi money. Since the first wave of health guidelines took effect in 2006, however, Pepsi dropped its “donation” by about $160,000 per year.
If Pepsi does win this battle to keep diet sodas in Kansas schools, it’ll likely be thanks in part to the misconception that diet beverages are in some way “healthy.” On the contrary, studies have found that diet sodas are more detrimental to the human heart than their non-diet counterparts. Furthermore, the ongoing notion that these sodas promote weight loss is unsubstantiated, with research showing that the waistlines of longterm diet soda drinkers increase.
For more reasons why Kansas should follow through with its plan to reject Pepsi’s diet sodas in their schools, check out Pilar Gerasimo’s 10 “Dangers of Diet Soda” article.