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Soda contracts sweet deal for schools

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For local schools, deciding whether vending machines and concession stands will carry Coca-Cola or Pepsi has nothing to do with taste.

School officials want to know how many free drinks the beverage companies are willing to provide, which can be used during teacher meetings and training sessions, how much they’re willing to share from vending machine profits and how much money they’ll contribute to student athletic and academic programs.

The company that provides the higher dollar amount wins.

Local school districts can receive more than $50,000 per year from contracts with soda companies. That money can help pay for special parties, playground equipment and scholarships for students, school officials said.

In July, Clark-Pleasant schools agreed to extend its 14-year-old contract with Coke for another seven years. Coke pledged to contribute roughly $49,000 per year to the school district in cash, beverages and other products.

During the seven years of the contract, the school district expects to receive about $350,000 in money and products, business director Steve Sonntag said.

In the past year, Franklin also renewed a contract with Coke, which will last for five years.

During the next five years, the agreement should net the school district more than $448,400.

Center Grove switched from Coke to Pepsi at the start of the 2013-14 school year, bringing roughly $481,600 over five years.

School districts receive different amounts to help pay for programs, and those typically include money and equipment for athletics, such as water bottles and gallon jugs used during practices and games, a cut of vending machine sales, rebates on additional drinks purchased by the school district and cash school officials can use however they want.

“It’s just alternative revenue that is very beneficial to the schools and the students,” Sonntag said.

Under the agreements, the school districts allow the soda companies to sell their products exclusively.

Soda companies don’t have free rein to sell all of their products in schools. At Clark-Pleasant and Franklin elementary schools, only water and vitamin water are available for students.

At the middle schools, students also can buy juice; and high school students can buy diet soda. Schools’ concession stands can offer all Coke products during sporting events, Sonntag and Franklin executive director of finance Jeff Mercer said.

The exact amount Clark-Pleasant and Franklin will receive from Coke depends in part on how often students and staff use the vending machines. Franklin receives 35 percent of vending machine revenue, Mercer said. Clark-Pleasant also receives a cut that it expects to amount to nearly $16,300 a year, Sonntag said.

Both districts also receive complimentary drinks, which they can use during special events for students and the community or during training sessions for teachers, and rebates if schools buy additional beverages, Mercer and Sonntag said.

Clark-Pleasant also receives cash payments totaling $15,500 per year from Coke, while Franklin gets $10,500 per year.

Clark-Pleasant’s elementary schools, for example, can use their portion of the soft drink money to buy playground equipment or to sponsor programs for children from low-income families, while the high school can give some of the money to students to help them pay for college, Sonntag said.

“It has taken the place, not of all fundraisers, but a few of the fundraisers,” Sonntag said.

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