Schools to get low-calorie Coca-Cola sodas

Grand Junction High School sophomore Travis Kuechler takes a sip of a Mountain Dew as he talks with friends in the commons area of the school. Soon Pepsi will no longer be filling the pop machines behind him; Coke will soon become the distributor.

It’s the swan song for soda at District 51 schools.

Well, full-calorie soda, at least.

A 10-year contract that kept Pepsi machines in schools across the district stocked with the soft-drink company’s lineup of carbonated, caffeinated sodas sunsets in December and will not be renewed. The district opted for a five-year contract with Coca-Cola instead, said Melissa Callahan deVita, executive director of support services, but the switch is not merely swapping one brand of soda for another.

“This is not the same contract,” she said. “It’s not even the same product.”

The Colorado Legislature passed a law last spring that requires all school districts who contract with beverage vendors to adopt the American Beverage Association’s standards of healthy drinks allowed in school. Among other stipulations, the standards ban full-calorie soda at all grade levels.

Districts have until July 1 next year to make the switch, according to the law, but deVita said District 51 is adopting the standards with the new contract instead of waiting until the summer.

The district will prepare for the new era in December, deVita said, and come spring semester students will find only diet sodas and an expanded offering of bottled water, milk, juices and sports drinks in their school vending machines.

The American Beverage Association guidelines establish maximum per-drink serving sizes for each grade level. Elementary schools, for example, are limited to selling bottled water and up to 8-ounce servings of milk and 100 percent juices.

Serving sizes at the middle-school level can be expanded to 10 ounces, but only in high schools can non-milk or juice beverages be sold, and they must be low-calorie or no calorie.

Callahan deVita said the district chose Coca-Cola because of the company’s ability to serve a large area such as District 51 and its experience in dealing with the ABA requirements. Commissions to the district on drink sales for Coke products were higher as well, she said.

Under the Pepsi contract, District 51 received $250,000 in commission each year along with other types of revenue, according to the 2008-09 budget.


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