Cola Wars

One can of Coca-Cola contains nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar. Think about that. Imagine measuring out 9 1/2 teaspoons of table sugar into a glass, adding 12 ounces of water, and slugging it down. Don’t forget to add the caffeine, 46 mg of it. Now, 46 mg may not sound like much, but when you weigh 85 lbs, it’s like drinking two cups of coffee. And then there’s the phosphoric and carbonic acids, to dissolve your tooth enamel. And the phosphates don’t stop there, they also leach calcium from bones as they pass through your system. Despite how very tasty it is, Coca-Cola really is pretty nasty stuff to drink.

Which is why it was especially tragic that, in order to make up for the funding that they were hemorrhaging, many public schools chose to enter into a devil’s bargain with soft drink manufacturers. In exchange for cold hard cash to fund needy programs, they would put soft drink machines in their schools. Hey, schools need money, right?

Except that money isn’t really coming from the soft drink manufacturer. They make a tidy profit on the arrangement, and can afford to make the payments to the schools from that income. So, YOU are paying that money to the schools, in the guise of the money your child spends on sodas. And it’s good to support schools, but if you did so more directly, your kid’s health wouldn’t be taking such a hit.

Well, some school districts are backing out of the deals. In particular, the Beaverton School District is trying to implement a new federally-mandated wellness policy that limits soda and junk food sales during school hours. Good for them, but the economic reality is that if they were to walk away from their 10-year contract with PepsiCo, it would cost the district ~$2.05 million in penalties and lost income over the 4 1/2 years left in the contract. If they were to renegotiate the contract to include only water, juice and some sports drinks, revenue would shrink by ~$1 million.

That’s a tough economic reality to face. But Beaverton has taken the position that it is a necessary step in helping to safeguard the health of their children. Again, good for them.

Last June, the Portland Public School District adopted a wellness policy that limited drink sales in schools to water, milk, soymilk and 100 percent juice. As a result, Portland has made the decision to pull diet soda and sports drinks from their high schools’ vending machines. But Coca-Cola lawyers are turning the screws on the district, warning that the district will have to pay $600,000 unless it restores the two kinds of drinks to high schools.

Under the terms of their original deal with Coca-Cola, Portland schools got $1.9 million, annual payments of $45,000 and about $230,000 a year in sales. That’s money that will be hard to replace, not to mention the possibility of owing more than a half-a-million dollars in fines for breaking the contract.

If you think that soft drinks in school are a threat to the health of our children, let the school district know. Tell them you’ll support their decision to yank soft drinks out of schools. But the other side of that bargain is that you then have to actually fund the schools sufficiently so that they don’t have to sell the health of their kids in order to fund after-school programs.

1 Comment so far

  1. Brian-Robert (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 11:30 pm

    I unfortunately had many cavities because of cola products. I was tired to the drilling so I quit cola about two years ago. I haven’t had a cavity since. Now my stomach does not even like digesting cola and it lets me know about it! Same goes for Burger King & McD’s food. My stomach literally becomes nautious from their foods. I now truly wonder how bad that food is.

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