March 13, 2001
For Immediate Release

Andrew Hagelshaw, Center for Commercial-Free Public Education 510 268-1100

Coke Forced to Announce Changes in Dealings with Schools
Coke Claims They no Longer Will Emphasize Exclusive Contracts

Atlanta, GA- The Coca-Cola corporation will publicly announce on Wednesday, March 14 that they intend to change the way they do business with school districts. On the list of changes includes encouraging local representatives to negotiate non-exclusive contracts, producing vending machines that have school messages on the outside rather than Coke ads, and offering a wider variety of "nutritious" beverages.

"What these 'changes' actually mean for schools and whether Coke actually promotes them on a local level remains to be seen," said Andrew Hagelshaw, Executive Director for the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education. "But one thing is clear. Coke only made this announcement because they've been forced into it. They know the exclusive advertising contracts they've been pushing are becoming more and more unpopular, and they have to do something if they want to stay in schools and promote brand loyalty." Community opposition to exclusive cola contracts in schools has grown tremendously over the last few years. In August 2000 Madison, Wisconsin became the first school district to vote to leave in the middle of a contract with Coke in response to community opposition. A $43 million deal with Coke was voted down by Philadelphia schools in February 2000 after parental objections. Sacramento and Oakland (CA) schools recently voted down Pepsi offers and are now investigating whether soda machines belong in schools at all.

"Coke claims in their public statement that this is another step in their commitment to commercial free schools," said Hagelshaw. "But everywhere they've been pushed out they've left kicking and screaming. The reality is that they would keep on with business as usual if they could. They want us to think this is an education based decision, but we know this is a business move forced by their bottom line."

In addition to community opposition to exclusive contracts, several health studies have been recently released to suggest that soda has a negative impact on the health of young people. In February 2001, the USDA recommended to Congress that soda didn't belong in public schools and in October 2000 the American Dental Association came out against exclusive soda deals.

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