Schools Urged to Dump Coke
by Jake Ellison, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 27,
by Parents Advocating School Accountability, San Francisco
For more articles like this
Schools should dump the Coca-Cola company or at least give the
district's students options for buying healthy beverages.
That's the message that more than a dozen area residents had for
School Board members last night at a public hearing.
They cited studies that put the "massive content of sugar in
pop" at the center of childhood obesity and other health
problems and painted a moral morass in which the district makes
money from the sale of unhealthy products.
horrible products to students in order to fund (programs for
them)?" asked Ted Lockery, a teacher at Nathan Hale High School.
No one spoke in favor of Coke's five-year, exclusive contract to
sell pop out of vending machines to schoolchildren in the
district. The contract, which netted nearly $400,000 for use in
schools last year alone, expires Aug. 31.
The board was airing the possible renewal of the contract after
a committee recommended it be extended another five years with
one change: cutting off sales of pop during school hours in
The district first heard reasons to dump the contract from a
representative of the Citizens Campaign for Commercial-Free
Schools, and then details of the contract's lucrative side from
its deputy legal counsel, Ron English.
But the public held the floor for more than an hour.
Alexandra Duncan, a senior at Roosevelt High School, argued
students can make good choices but need the opportunity to make
them. She and a half-dozen other young women sat with signs
saying: "Seattle students want milk all day long."
She said she didn't understand why the issue of allowing other
healthier drinks to be sold outside cafeterias at schools was
even being debated. "Students need and want other healthy
English told the board that the current contract with Coke does
not prohibit schools from allowing milk to be sold from vending
machines in the halls. He said West Seattle High School had
already experimented with selling milk, but results from that
effort were not yet known.
He said the committee had recommended restricting Coke's sales
in middle schools out of one main concern: "Shouldn't schools
set an example in the health arena?"
English said nixing the contract altogether would cost the
district more than $400,000 next year, money that individual
schools have used to help fund yearbooks, newspapers, sports and
drama programs in the high schools, and camp scholarships, field
trips, dances and the Writers in Residence program in middle
He added that the recommended middle school restrictions in the
contract would cost the district $40,000. The School Board will
vote on the contract extension Wednesday.
One parent of a recent graduate of Garfield High said she
worried the sales of pop out in the halls of the schools sends
the wrong message to students. The commercialism targeted at
them undermines the image of schools as a "benign institution."
She said school issues shouldn't center on "how much profit can
be wrung out of kids."
The Seattle Public Schools Board Of Directors' next meeting is
Wednesday (July 2), when they will vote on a measure that would
authorize the superintendent to extend its contract with
Coca-Cola Beverages of Washington Inc. for cold beverage vending
machine services from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2008. The
extension provides that carbonated soft drinks will not be
available to middle school students during school hours.
For more information on school food issues, and for a free,
downloadable guide on getting rid of junk food in your child's
school, please go to
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