The annual shareholders’ meetings for corporations like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, and others are coming up. And here’s a problematic little tidbit these corporations don’t want you to know about: Big Food and Big Soda corporations have a long history of exploiting our institutions of education and higher education for their own benefit.
That’s right. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, and other corporations frequently pay schools for the right to exclusively sell their sugary and unhealthy products to students and campus communities, hooking a new generation to their junk products, and worsening the epidemic of diet-related diseases that this industry has fueled for decades. And on the other hand, they fund studies and support research at colleges and universities exploiting the access that money buys them to influence research and spread junk science to legitimize the sale and consumption of their unhealthy products. These are some of the many strategies these corporations use to buy social license to operate at the cost of public health and wellbeing.
These tactics are not new. This is a playbook from Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. Corporations have long used think tanks, academic institutions, front groups, and trade associations to spread misinformation to safeguard corporate profits, and push for corporate-friendly policies that harm people, the planet, and democracy.
It’s time to call these corporations out and kick them out of our schools! Add your name and demand that Big Food and Big Soda corporations stop exploiting our schools.
Paying schools for the right to exclusively sell their junk food to the young generation is a widely used tactic of this industry. Their massive footprint is present in elementary schools, all the way up to colleges and universities, let alone their deep influence on government agencies and policy institutions.
And while cash-strapped schools get a quick infusion of cash from these contracts (cash they need because of the broken food system created to benefit corporations and severely underfunded education system), corporations get to fill the schools not just with junk food, but also with their misleading marketing and shiny advertising, as these corporations seek to addict a new generation to their toxic products.
The cost of these contracts is a worsening epidemic of diet-related diseases that are especially prevalent in Black communities, Indigenous communities, other communities of color, and in the Global South.
And while corporations are peddling their junk food at schools, they are also funding studies and supporting research. With this money that goes to research, the corporation retains the right to ‘quash studies’ or ‘pressure researchers using the threat of termination’ to produce research that could shift the blame for diet-related disease away from their junk food and sugary products to reasons such as lack of exercise. Other times, corporations are simply funding junk science to muddy the waters, deflect negative attention, and sow doubt, eventually impacting public policy and public health.
With their annual shareholders’ meetings coming up, this is a critical time to speak out and tell these corporations loud and clear that we won’t let them continue exploiting our schools and undermining our health.