TO: Hilary Rosen, Director of University Services
FROM: Mason Students for Healthful Beverage Choices
DATE: November 10, 2006
SUBJECT: Fountain Beverage Choices on Campus
Given the recent media attention about the lack of healthy eating choices in high schools and colleges, we appreciate the efforts of University Services and Sodexho to offer a variety of dining choices on campus. The area of healthy choices that we still fall short in, however, regards beverages. It is our understanding that George Mason is under contract with Coca-Cola to provide vending and fountain beverages across campus, but the choice of Coke products offered at each soda fountain is far from balanced.
Right now in the United States, heart disease is the leading killer of adults and diabetes is the most common chronic disease among children. Physicians tell us the number of adolescents diagnosed with type-2 diabetes is increasing rapidly; until recently, this disease was unheard of among those under 40 years of age. This rise juvenile-onset diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a myriad of other health problems among Americans is related to obesity.
Obesity has become an epidemic in America over the past decade: six out of ten adults are overweight, and 17 percent of children are obese. Childhood obesity is caused by two main factors: lack of exercise and unhealthy diets, which include soft drinks. Parents, health advocacy groups, and local and state governments have recognized this link between weight gain and unhealthy diets, and have worked to change school menus in schools across the country by replacing fatty foods with healthier alternatives and instituting banning soft drinks. Through negotiation, compromise, and the threat of a class action lawsuit, soft drink corporations have willingly removed their products from schools. Many say this action is not enough, and want to hold the corporations liable for selling soft drinks with full knowledge of their negative health effects. This is likened to the way tobacco companies were successfully sued for selling a product they knew could lead to lung disease, various cancers, and other major health problems.
DINING HALLS AND OFFERINGS
According to Lori Leetz, the Resident District Manager from Sodexho Dining Services, each unit manager chooses which Coke products to feature in their dining establishment. We examined the soda fountains in each major dining area on campus and counted the number of sweetened and unsweetened beverages; we made the following observations:
• With the exception of a single Diet Sprite, Diet Coke was the Healthful Alternative at every soda fountain.
• Almost every fountain had two regular Coca-cola dispensers.
We can all agree that Mason students are adults, but we contend that given the choices offered, students are rarely in a position to make a healthy choice. If one dislikes Diet Coke, she or he rarely has a low calorie choice at a soda fountain. We feel that rebalancing the options from Coke’s portfolio of beverages will offer people a greater likelihood of making a healthful choice.
We propose the following changes:
• Two or three slots of each soda fountain must offer one of the following healthful Coca-Cola products: Diet Barq's, Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Coke (also with Lemon or with Lime), Diet Fanta, Diet Mello Yellow, Diet Mr. Pibb, Diet Sprite Zero, Diet Nestea.
• Offer unsweetened tea in all areas. Unlike other beverages, people are used to having to sweeten tea on their own
• Ensure that water is available in every soda fountain
• Increase the variety of the choices in each area rather than a standard lineup of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Barq's, and Cherry Coke.
While statistics of consumption choice on the Mason campus may disagree, we strongly feel this is due to the current offerings and lack of choice available today; Coke is the most popular fountain soda on campus because every fountain has two Coca-Cola dispensers. We urge you to consider our proposal, and possibly pilot these in changes in a single dining area to see how people react. Should University Services choose to pilot our plan, we are willing to offer our services to monitor and report the results to you.
We appreciate your consideration in this matter.
Mason Students for Healthful Beverage Choices
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