Fizz Off! Youth Challenge Soda Industry's Sugar-Coated Thinking
By Wendy Lesko
Coca-Cola’s mission is “to refresh the world” and promote “open happiness.” The world’s number one beverage company boasts about its initiatives “to support active, healthy living” such as donating to youth fitness programs.
Here are a few examples of young people who are questioning this sugar-coated thinking:
- Truth Unfiltered, Flavored Lies is an award-winning rap documentary produced by three high school students in Columbia, MD with the verdict: “Soda is the new nicotine.”
- P.H.A.T [Powerful, Healthy, Active, Teens] video has a reporter interview Youth Radio interns in Oakland, CA to askt hem about the amount of sugar in a can of soda and whether they might switch to water.
- Saludable Omaha YouthPower leader Jessica in Nebraska believes people feel more “refreshed” without junk foods and “Change is gonna happen” because of the movement.
- Youth Empowered Solutions! 15-year-old Dylan Goodman is part of a multi-generational team that’s exploring with store owners in Asheville, NC a plan that includes positioning healthier foods near checkout registers instead of candy and sodas.
- Zane Middle School Health Club in Eureka, CA conducted a photovoice project and learned from their student survey that many dislike the fountains because “the water is dirty and tastes bad.” Their research led them to propose hydration stations that dispense water into refillable bottles using infrared sensors. The student plan won unanimous approval by school authorities and demand for water is up.
- Kick the Can essay contest winner Shannon Segall of Davis, CA writes “Since teens are the largest consumer demographic these companies are targeting, then it’s time to use that power—the power to make different buying and drinking decisions, while sending a message to beverage corporations that these aren’t the products we want.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Let’s hope more young people will question the All-American facade of Coca-Cola and the soda industry, considering the figures below, amongst other things:
- Latino teens were exposed to 99 percent more soda ads and 80 to 90 percent more for African American youth than their white counterparts in 2010 than two years earlier.
- Each year Coca-Cola provides $3 million for its College Scholars involving 250 high school seniors; compare that with Coke’s $16 million to LeBron James or $35 million to sponsor American Idol.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National 4-H, Girls Inc., NAACP, American Diabetes Association are among hundreds of organizations that receive Coca-Cola charitable donations.
- Philadelphia Children’s Hospital received a one-time $10 million donation from the American Beverage Association as part of its successful strategy to defeat a two-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks projected to reduce consumption and raise more than $18 million/per year in revenues for city health programs.