Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Sep

Surreptitious Soda Companies Still in Schools


Beverage giants like Coke and Pepsi Co. have come under heavy fire from children’s advocates, health experts and parents alike in recent years. Perhaps one of the most controversial issues in the soda wars is the “sponsorship” many schools obtain in exchange for stocking the hallways with vending machines. Exploiting our children in order to cover costs has to be one of the most disgusting examples of Big Agra’s power over our next generation’s health. So when Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury Schweppes announced they were pulling sugary beverages from schools in favor of “healthier” options like low-fat milk, diet drinks, and 100% juices, it was a begrudging step in the right direction. We don’t drink milk in our family and I’m not in favor of sports drinks, diet carbonated beverages or juice drinks, but at least this move was a measurable improvement over cans of corn syrup-clogged soda. (Bill Clinton lauded it as “courageous”.)

Moving forward: the Times has investigated the aftermath now that the rosy publicity glow has died down. According to the article, soda would have been cut eventually anyway because of pending litigation; and sports drinks would have likely been removed as well. (So-called “performance beverages” are completely unnecessary for children – even those who play sports.) The real concern here is that the beverage companies quietly added a loophole a few months back for “other” sweetened – enhanced – beverages like Propel and Vitaminwater. While these drinks contain fewer calories per serving than many sodas, they’re still loaded with sugar and/or corn syrup. And although an 8-ounce serving can’t contain more than 66 calories if it’s to be sold in schools, what teenager is going to split the bottle 2.5 ways at the cafeteria table? It all amounts to business as usual, only now, it’s being done under the guise of promoting children’s health.

To do something about it, leave a comment here, then send an email to Coke, Pepsi, Cadbury, or your senators.

Further reading:

The Fattest States in America

Graphic: How Many Vending Machines Are in Schools?

– Photo from Inherit the Mirth

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. School lunch is horrible. School breakfast is worse(pop tarts, doughnuts, french toast on a stick) What gives? Nothing is fresh or from scratch. My son tells me that his friends eat doughnuts and mountain dew from the vending machine for lunch. Hmmm, not very smart friends. The 9th graders feel special because they have their own vending machine room. Parents complain amongst themselves but no one is willing to really push the issue.

    Crystal wrote on September 26th, 2007
  2. The machines do serve a purpose, even if they only sell bottled water, as the school districts obtain monies from Coca-cola and Pepsi. Extra funding for schools without raising taxes is not a bad thing.

    I remember back in my jr. high and high school days that the only machines on campus sold milk and fruit. However, the Student Store did sell candy at lunch.

    Today, in high school, students will leave campus and obtain their desired delectables off-campus. It isn’t the machine or the soft drink manufactures that are responsible, it is the proper health education from the schools and the home that will adequately prepare the children.

    Oxybeles wrote on September 26th, 2007
  3. Maybe going after pepsi and coke isn’t the best solution. We should start with our own communities and schools. I asked a manager at a local grocery store to carry some things that I wanted. He said, they only sell what people buy. From the looks of things, we’re in big trouble.

    Crystal wrote on September 26th, 2007
  4. Vending machines full of junk are bad news no matter where they put them, I can’t ever recall seeing anything in any machine that was even remotely healthy.

    I hated the cafeteria lunches, the food was all gross & cooked to death. One school I went to even had it’s own Taco Bell area where they served a more limited menu than the regular restaurant.

    Common options in the lunchlady line included breaded chicken patties (the super processed variety, so far from “chicken” that ketchup actually improved the flavor), greasy pizza made with low quality ingredients, boring french fries & a grainy red delicious. (Dunno about you, but I can’t stand red delicious and I *love* apples.)

    Rather than spend money on the untasty cafeteria food, I’d spend 50 cents on sugary sweet ho hos & 75 cents on a mango madness snapple, and coast on that until I knew I could go home to some real food, saving money with which to buy Boone’s Farm after school. :p

    Either way I was doomed nutritionally (unless mom packed lunch, in which case I was less doomed and more delighted), but at least the ho hos and snapple tasted all right.

    I agree that it’s not necessarily the fault of the manufacturers, eating well begins at home and most kids eat junk at home, too. I don’t believe there’s a parent out there that isn’t aware of the state of the cafeteria lunch, so packing your kid’s lunch or teaching them how to do it becomes a necessity. We can’t trust our own nutritional needs to anyone but ourselves, and it’s probably not a good idea to hope kids will manage to do all right when they have a pretty dire selection to begin with.

    Lemur wrote on September 26th, 2007
  5. This is terrible! Childhood obesity is something I really care about… but I don’t really know how to make a difference. What would I even write in an email to those companies?

    Lisa wrote on September 26th, 2007
  6. I packed my own lunch through most of high school–sandwich, fruit, yogurt, chocolate. Occasionally, I bought soup, since it was one of the few reasonably healthy items the school couldn’t ruin. If I had to wait for a ride after school and was hungry, I stuck to pretzels and diet Coke–not the best, but far better than the Hostess or a Choco Taco (yes, there was an ICE CREAM BAR vending machine in addition to the soda and standard snack machine). I looked at all the kids with pizza, french fries, and Fruitopia on their trays almost every day, and couldn’t believe their parents were giving them money to spend on that crap. I told my dad to keep what amounted to about $700 annually and put it towards my college fund, costly (and fugly) uniform polo shirts, or quality food at home.

    Jess wrote on September 26th, 2007
  7. EH? Vitamin water isnt good for you?? I’ve been drinking that stuff everyday since sophomore year now and I’m a freshman in college!

    Linh wrote on September 26th, 2007
  8. “Today, in high school, students will leave campus and obtain their desired delectables off-campus. It isn’t the machine or the soft drink manufactures that are responsible, it is the proper health education from the schools and the home that will adequately prepare the children.”

    This sounds ominously like the personal responsibility and choice arguments spun by food and beverage companies and restaurant associations. You can educate kids about good food all you want, but teenagers are teenagers. When they mob into Kroger’s at lunchtime, only the superdieting girls are going to head for the salad bar. Think about what you ate as a teenager and a college student. Even if I had known then what I know now about nutrition, I still would have guzzled cans of diet soda and noshed on pizza, sandwiches, and chips. I watched calories and clothing sizes, but I did not watch nutrition. Young people think they’re Peter Pans and cannot be bothered to read the backside of the box of granola bars to see if they contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. The personal responsibility/choice argument is perfect for food manufacturers and restaurants because a) they can peddle their poisons unrestricted and b) it doesn’t work – nutrition professor Dr. Marion Nestle admitted in her book “What to Eat” that as a working mom, she sometimes gave in to her kids in the grocery store and let them put snack foods in the cart because she was too tired to argue. Her book details all the insideous marketing strategies food companies use to get their products into your kitchens.

    And think about this – more than 90% of the $25 billion in farm subsidies supports just five crops: wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice. These subsidies keep processed food and factory farm meat prices artificially low; meanwhile, we must pay full price for fresh produce and sustainably farmed meats and milk. Personal responsibility and choice, my a**.

    “I agree that it’s not necessarily the fault of the manufacturers, eating well begins at home and most kids eat junk at home, too. “

    I don’t have the link right now, but I recall reading a news story this summer claiming that kids actually ate less nutritiously at home than at school. This makes sense because school lunches, as awful as they are, must meeet federal nutrition guidelines. Parents, on the other hand, can serve whatever they like or can afford.

    As long as high school kids are allowed to leave campus at lunchtime, there isn’t much we can do to improve what they eat, but middle and elementary school kids are captive customers. Since cafeterias don’t have to compete with fast food, there’s no excuse not to serve nutritous, wholesome foods.

    Sonagi wrote on September 26th, 2007
  9. I have been eating in school cafeterias twice a week with two of my grand children for the last seven years. What I see on the trays around me astounds me. I can’t believe the stuff meets any standard nutritional guidelines–it’s certainly as far from Primal as can be.

    Time has a way of messing with our memory but I sure remember my school lunches (early 60s Catholic school)as being a lot more nutritious. I even remember having to use the old “stuff the broccoli in the milk carton” trick so I could throw the stuff away without being spotted by Sister Mary Aquinas!! On the down side, however, I do remember getting 12 cents a day to take to school. That way I could buy a Coke at “little recess” and another at “big recess.” Some things haven’t changed.

    Dave C. wrote on September 27th, 2007
  10. My college got a million dollars a year for 10 years for a contract with Pepsi to make all the cafeteria fountain drinks, vending machines, and 90% of store drinks Pepsi products.

    The used the money for a field house… but at the time the students were really upset because of course their opinion wasn’t asked.

    Sara G wrote on September 27th, 2007
  11. Shaping Youth just posted on how junk food is still prevalent in schools, partly based on the outdated USDA notion of what junk food “IS” by definition.

    Here’s a teaser: “Sublime in its simplicity, compelling in its story, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has succinctly summed up the USDA nutrition guidelines as gobbledygook by dramatizing the absurdity of what is considered ‘junk food’ in schools. 5 questions. No big time zap. It’s a fabulous digital media use, worthy of a few “forward to a friend” challenges, among kids AND adults! C’mon, try it…you’ll LOVE this quiz.”

    They’re clearly doing the bait-n-switch from sodas to sports drinks w/the bev. contract giants.

    Also, re: we have an interview with the CEO of YoNaturals (a vending machine company trying to replace crud with healthier options in fitness facilities and such) posting in the next few days too, fyi.

    Ironically, they’re NOT targeting schools at all, but I kinda wish they COULD to compete against the giants and get better content! They’re focusing on corp. lunchrooms and such to raise the bar…so I guess it’s less the ‘machine’ as the ‘content’ oui?

    Also, thanks for the link as a ‘child advocate,’ in this post, though I clearly am, I suppose sometimes my rants sound a bit more like your lil’ Fumin’ Fuji’ guy, eh? Best, Amy

    Shaping Youth wrote on September 28th, 2007
  12. Sports Drinks and juices can be deceiving. I used to drink Vitamin Water regularly, thinking I was making a healthy choice- since I took a closer look at the label, and realized one bottle had 2.5 servings and loads of sugar, I haven’t had another.

    Jenn wrote on October 3rd, 2007
  13. A lot of drinks can be deceiving. I was buying Steaz which just came to our school because it had green tea in it. It would take a lot of green tea to justify drinking 35 grams of sugar in a can. another case of a loophole that policy makers didn’t close. And my friends don’t know any better… she thinks just because it is organic that it is healthy. Wake up and smell the diabetes.

    Jessie wrote on February 19th, 2008
  14. Sugar is ok when moderated, but do drinks with added sugar belong in schools? Most of the industry leaders like cadburry, coke and pepsi are not selling carbonated , sugared beverages in schools.

    I am all for entrepreneurship, but shouldn’t all brands in the beverage industry, in an effort to show our industry the integrity it deserves, lead by example. It is important the beverage industry put aside our differences and stand together when it comes to the welfare of our children.

    So, if a product like Steaz sparkling green tea – which is going to be sold in schools starting in Senator Tom Harkin’s Iowa – has carbonation and added cane sugar, how can the beverage industry effect this the government’s decisions?

    Do we really want to bring government ratings in to our industry because we could not police ourselves? This will happen if we are not careful.

    Joe wrote on March 14th, 2008
  15. Astounding article bro. This kind of is just a exceedingly nicely structured posting, just the tips I was hunting for. Thanks

    模具 wrote on March 15th, 2012

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