How to Counter Common Arguments for Sodas in Schools 

Following is a list of counter-arguments that you can adapt to your school situation. Feel free to use and distribute them freely. And if you have any additional suggestions, please send them to:

Schools Need the Money from Soda Sales

Schools should not be making a profit at the expense of children’s health.

Children were not meant to fund their education with their own pocket change.

Coke and Pepsi make way more money than the schools do on exclusive pouring rights agreements, especially if you consider the amount per student.

Often, schools lose more money from the school lunch program that what they can make up in soda sales. (E.g., in Texas, school districts made $54 million per year, but lost $61 million in reimbursement under the school lunch program.)

If Coke and Pepsi really cared about education, they would donate money outright, and not require kids to sacrifice their health.

It makes more sense for schools to have fundraisers where kids and parents give money to schools directly, instead of giving a portion to Coke and Pepsi.

Soda companies are not “donating” money to schools at all; rather, they are exploiting schools’ need for funds to benefit their own bottom line and build brand loyalty among an impressionable and captive audience.

The economic incentive for schools to sell more unhealthy sodas is counter-productive to good education and protecting children from harm.

Many schools are making as much or even more money selling healthier options such as 100% juice and water. (Examples include California, Maine, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.)

Schools should not be so cash-strapped as to rely on blood money.

Schools need to look for better sources of funding for programs.

Adequate funding of public schools is the responsibility of government; that is what our taxes are for. 

It’s all About Choices / Children Need to Learn How to Choose

We don’t allow cigarette sales in schools so that children can have “choices.”

We restrict children’s choices in all sorts of ways in order to protect them.

Children have plenty of choices once they leave the school grounds.

Parents are still free to send children to school with sodas for lunch.

We do have a freedom of choice problem - you can’t get find a healthy drink! (Paraphrasing Sean Faircloth, Maine State Representative)

We need to create the best environment for children to make healthy choices.

If parents want to give their kids treat, they can do so at home.

Schools have a responsibility to provide children with healthy choices.

Kids will make healthy choices if you make them available and educate them.

Exclusive pouring rights agreements actually take away choice. Once that contract is signed, students’ choices are limited by that vendor’s products.

This is a Complex Problem / There is No Scientific Basis

Soda is a significant enough contributor to the obesity/diabetes/other health problem that it should be eliminated.

Saying that any one thing won’t solve the problem is no excuse for doing nothing.

The studies that industry cites as showing no connection between excess drinking soda and health problems were funded by industry. (Paraphrasing Carlos Camargo, Harvard Medical School)

Soda often displaces nutrients that children need.

Schools Should Have Local Control

Schools should have local control when it benefits children, not when it serves to accelerate the sales of Coke and Pepsi. (Paraphrasing the California PTA.)

We don’t allow schools to have local control over things of utmost importance, such as education standards or children’s health.

Children’s health is more important than local control.

In California, the school board association (which usually defends local control) supported a ban on soda in all public schools in that state because of the over-riding interest of children’s health.

Exercise is Really the Solution

It’s not only about exercising; it’s also about eating the right way.

One 20-ounce soda has 17 teaspoons of sugar, for a whopping 250 empty calories. A kid who drinks one soda a day for a week would need to bicycle for 4 hours and 20 minutes, just to burn off the calories from the soda. (Quoted from California Center for Public Health Advocacy)

Ironically, drinking too much soda can actually lead to broken bones; therefore drinking too much soda can put kids at risk for more activity-related injuries.

Parents are Really the Problem

Schools act in place of parents for the entire day, five days a week.

Parents trust schools not to undermine their own education efforts at home.

Parents should not have to worry about how their children are spending their lunch money.

Students Will Go Outside to Buy Sodas Anyway

Most school campuses are closed; 94% of elementary, 89% of middle/junior high and 73% if high schools have a closed campus policy. (Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Schools should remain a safe haven and educate at every opportunity.

Soda Companies Already Take Responsibility

Coke’s voluntary “Model Guidelines for School Beverage Partnerships” aren’t being followed and amount to nothing more than a PR move.

Miscellaneous Arguments: the Importance of Teaching Values

Schools should be a safe haven from the sale of sugar-water.

Children are captive at school; they should not be branding opportunities. 

Schools should teach the same values outside and inside the classroom.

Schools should practice what they preach in terms of nutrition.

The school nutrition environment should support and reinforce nutrition education in the classroom.

Children learn both by what we tell them and what we sell them.

The Bottom Line

Finally, use this quote to show what it’s really all about:

“The school system is where you build brand loyalty” - John Alm, president, Coca-Cola Enterprises, quoted in AJC, April 6, 2003.

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