Organic Consumers Association

Dump Pepsi Now!
February 7, 2003

DENVER -- The battle over soft drinks in local schools is bubbling over. Chanting, "Dump Pepsi now," several activists on Thursday poured cans and bottles of Pepsi in containers by the gutter in front of the Denver Public Schools headquarters to show their belief that soda is unhealthy for kids.

They don't want student to buy Pepsi on campus and are urging DPS to dump its contract with Pepsi.

Pepsi's exclusive 5-year deal with DPS expires on Aug. 11. It's up to the school board to decide whether to negotiate a new contract.The contract has meant big bucks for DPS -- about $6.5 million which the district said is used to fund debate clubs, buy athletic equipment, buy cheerleader uniforms, and to pay for books.

The district receives 57 percent gross commission on each sale. At the school board meeting on Thursday night, Superintendent Jerry Wartgow said that schools have come to rely on the money, and eliminating such a source of revenue would put a strain on the budget. However, Wartgow suggested that the board consider imposing conditions on the contract and to use some of that money to pay for nutrition education.

Some students said that they can't make it through the day without the caffeine from soft drinks. "Pop means a lot to me. It's the only thing I drink. It gives me energy and makes me think more," West High School student Isabell Pacheco told 7NEWS.Others said that they never buy soda, but like having vending machines on campus. "I think it's a good way to raise money," South High School student Ebony Hill said.

Health experts said 15 percent of kids are overweight and don't exercise and if soda is added to the mix, it can lead to diabetes. Wartgow argued that eliminating soda vendors would likely have little impact on the health and obesity issue. However, he suggested that the district ban vending machines selling any drinks other than water in elementary schools. The only exception to this would be inside the teacher's lounge. He also said the cost for a bottle of water should not be more than cost of other beverages in any DPS vending machine. He also suggested that if new vending machines are placed in schools, the front panel should display water rather than other beverages.

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