How are soda companies targeting teenagers these days? By negotiating contracts with school systems for sole “pouring rights.” In fact, four out of every five public high schools have agreements with either Coca-Cola or Pepsi to exclusively serve their beverages on their premises, reports Mother Jones.
These contracts stipulate that the soda companies’ products will be sold in vending machines, cafeterias, snack bars and at afterschool functions. Advertisements that promote the sugary beverages are also furnished to the schools to keep the thought of soda on the kids’ minds throughout the day.
While many school officials know the health risks associated with offering soda to their students, the allure of extra money can be too much for cash-scrapped schools to ignore. The contracts are quite lucrative and provide supplemental income to schools at a time when government budget cuts are rampant. For example, Coca-Cola signed a deal with the Rockford, Illinois school district. The decade-long agreement established that the company would give the schools over seven million dollars to sell Coke products in school buildings.
With this sizeable additional revenue, schools like those in Rockford are able to pay for teachers’ assistants, field trips and new technology for the classroom. Consequentially, school superintendents are left in the uneasy predicament of determining whether the benefit of having otherwise unaffordable school resources outweighs the health costs of giving a soda corporation a prominent position in their buildings. Given that 80% of public schools have opted in to these contracts, it is clear which decision the majority of school districts are making.
Although school districts are more likely to leave their younger students out of these cola promotions, they certainly are not left out altogether. Almost half of American public elementary schools have soda pouring contracts, meaning the companies are catching these kids early.
Some official do not even see the problem with giving kids easy access to soda. One often used excuse is that students who do not have access to junk food at school just wind up eating more of it at home, but a study conducted by the University of Illinois found that was not the case. A second study by the same researchers found that kids in schools where junk food is restricted were more likely to be of a healthy weight. With about one third of American kids currently considered overweight or obese, this discrepancy seems important.
Soda pouring contracts may eventually be in jeopardy. Two years ago, President Barack Obama signed legislation that mandated that the United States Department of Agriculture develop countrywide regulations on sodas and snacks sold in schools. However, the USDA has yet to produce any such recommendations.
Photo Credit: Ethan Bloch