Is your kid's public school a Coke school or a Pepsi school?
If you don't know what I mean, consider yourself lucky. Starting in the early '90s, cash-strapped public schools began selling exclusive "pouring rights" to one or another Big Soda company, which would then supply all the beverages sold in on-site snack bars, stores, and soda machines as well as at sports events. Along with sugary drinks, of course, the companies also stuffed the schools with plenty of advertisements.
In 2005, according to one survey, nearly half of all public elementary schools and about 80 percent of public high schools operated under pouring rights contracts. It's clear what the schools get for their trouble. It's no wonder that schools turn to selling junky snack food and cutting deals with sugary soda makers to augment stingy school-lunch budgets. As of 2011, we were spending more than twice as much on air conditioning for troops in Afghanistan than we do on feeding public school kids. The soda deals subsidize other aspects of schooling, too. Here's how the Rockford Register Star describes a contract between the Rockford, Illinois school district and Coca-Cola:
Under the existing 10-year contract, Coca-Cola paid the district $4 million upfront and an additional $350,000 a year to sell its beverages in schools. The annual payments have funded field trips, gym uniforms, SMART Boards and other frills that individual school budgets may not otherwise have afforded.
But what are they giving up in return? A just-released study by University of Illinois researchers compares the weight gain of kids in states that limit in-school junk food sales with those of kids in states that don't. The results, summarized by The New York Times:
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