Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Coca-Cola's $600K PPS threat

Portland Public Schools is finding out just how hard—and expensive—it is to back out of its Faustian "pouring rights" bargain with Coca-Cola.

Coke is trying to wrest $600,000 from the district.

Such are the perils of commercializing The Commons. See my previous post about a Portland Parks proposal that would expand commercialism in Portland's parks in exchange for cash.

The following press release from Portland-based Community Health Partnership outlines the school district's problems with Coke.

To let Coca-Cola know how you feel, call Matt Wilson, Coca-Cola Market Unit VP.

Portland, OR – Coke is showing its true colors by threatening Portland Public Schools (PPS) with a $600,000 fine for making changes this school year to the product mix sold in Portland schools.

Due to increasing concern about the epidemic of childhood obesity, PPS enacted a number of healthy changes this school year – including a policy dictating healthy beverage vending machine options – to make the nutrition environment better in all schools. Coke is now threatening PPS with a penalty that represents the salary of 15 to 18 first-year teachers.

“This is another example of the harmful power of commercial influence in our public schools" said Jeanne Roy, one of the founders of the Northwest Earth Institute and the Coalition for Commercial-Free Schools. "Coke is threatening PPS because Coke wants as many branded products as possible in front of the captive audience – our kids.”

Portland Public Schools is trying to create a school environment supportive of overall student wellness. In order to do this, PPS monitors and controls not only the foods and beverages sold in schools, but also food-based fund raisers, teacher reward systems and commercial messages promoting consumption of junk food. Coke should not force Portland Public Schools to sell liquid candy to our students.

“Portland Public Schools should not be fined for doing the right thing for the health of our students! Coke cannot be allowed to dictate the sale of unhealthy beverages to our students. This is exactly why we need a state law to set nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in all Oregon’s schools,” said Mary Lou Hennrich, executive director of Community Health Partnership: Oregon’s Public Health Institute.

The Coalition for Commercial-Free Schools works to promotes adoption of a model policy on advertising and commercial activities in Portland schools and raise awareness of the serious consequences of exposing our children to commercialism. Coalition members include pediatricians, a clinical psychologist, a former school board member and representatives of Northwest Earth Institute, Northwest Media Literacy Center, Community Health Partnership, Portland Council PTA and Rethinking Schools.

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