New Model Guidelines for School Beverage; Partnerships Sweet Deal for Coke

Date of Release: 

Monday, November 24, 2003

November 24, 2003  
For Immediate Release  

For More Information Contact:

Arnold Fege   (202) 628-7460

Alan Kanner, Ph.D.  (707) 824-1696

Jane Levine, Ed.D. (860) 245-3620

New Model Guidelines for School Beverage
Partnerships Sweet Deal for Coke

Calling Coca-Cola’s new Model Guidelines for School Beverage Partnerships a public relations ploy, the national coalition Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC) is urging parents, educators and health care professionals to continue their fight to make schools marketing free zones.  Coca-Cola claims the new guidelines, announced in a November 17 press release, are a response “to concerns about commercialism and nutrition.” 

Nutritionist Jane Levine of Kids Can Make a Difference disagrees:  “The main concern being met is Coca-Cola’s desire to market their products directly to children in schools. The company pursues beverage contracts with schools not to improve education but to increase immediate sales and to raise awareness and brand loyalty among students.  While the guidelines limit use of the Coca Cola logo, it is allowed on materials promoting health and nutrition education.”

The guidelines do nothing to restrict soda sales to middle and high school students and younger students will still be marketed sugar-laden “sports drinks.”  The issue, however, extends beyond the questionable nutritious value of Coca-Cola’s products.  According to Arnold Fege of Public Advocacy for Kids, and former director of government relations for the national PTA, “We are in the midst of an important national debate about whether or not Coke and other companies should be allowed to market their products to a captive audience in publicly funded schools.  The guidelines attempt to stifle that debate by creating the false impression that no further action is needed.”

Child psychologist and SCEC board memberAllen Kanner is particularly disturbed that the guidelines carry the endorsement of several prominent organizations –  including the National Alliance of Black School Educators,  the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of State Boards of Education  and National Association of Secondary School Principals - that have accepted funding from Coke. “This is yet another example of the way in which Coca-Cola’s marketing plans now include infiltrating trusted education and children’s organizations.  The endorsements of these prestigious organizations lend the guidelines a veneer of respectability – until you realize that that those groups are already beholden to Coke for funding.”

Although schools around the country are in fiscal crisis, several cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York have banned some soft drink marketing in schools.   Given concerns about childhood obesity, SCEC is urging parents and advocacy groups to work with school boards to end soda marketing and to stop paying for education with children’s health.