Alliance for a Healthier Rhode Island Sugar Sweetened Beverage Policy Open Letter to RI School Superindendents

State of Rhode Island Department of HealthAs of January 26th, over 20 important organizations signed onto a joint letter urging Rhode Island schools to reject participation in marketing programs like MyCokeRewards. This letter will be circulated to school superintendents, principals, PTA’s/PTOS and others key stakeholders across the state. We’ll have lots of other opportunities to take action, so please join our email list by clicking the JOIN button now!

Click here to see one of the MyCokeRewards flyers that was being circulated here in Rhode Island.

Click here to download a PDF version of the joint letter opposing MyCokeRewards


January 12, 2012

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to share a concern and ask for your help. Recently, the Coca-Cola Corporation has been pushing a promotional campaign that is connected to schools in Rhode Island, as well as nationwide. The program, called MyCokeRewards, encourages people to buy Coke products, and then log onto the campaign website to register their MyCokeRewards points with a particular school, so the school can redeem the points and supposedly obtain rewards such as sports equipment. It is unclear what rewards schools can actually get, but it certainly is not cash. It is clear, however, that schools do not benefit from this program, but that Coca-Cola does, by being able to market their products to youth. The beverage industry already heavily markets their products to youth (especially blacks and Hispanics) on TV, radio, and in social and mobile media, and children’s exposure to TV ads for Coca Cola’s sugary drinks have nearly doubled from 2008 to 2010.

The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages isn’t just bad for teeth: it is also a leading cause of obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, early tooth loss and tooth decay and more. Given that Rhode Island has a law prohibiting soda sales in schools, we are deeply concerned that a number of schools in our state are participating in the MyCokeRewards program.

We are writing to you to urge adoption of a district-wide policy prohibiting the acceptance of money from any sugar -sweetened beverage company, through participation in programs such as MyCokeRewards, contests, fundraisers, or sponsorships. We are concerned that the beverage industry is using incentive programs such as MyCokeRewards to win favor with educators and parents in an effort to enlist them as allies against public health measures designed to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. This strategy was used by tobacco companies for years and we are skeptical of the industry’s attempts to align themselves with a social good such as education. The beverage industry has repeatedly said it wants to be part of the solution to the problem of obesity and other health-related issues linked to consumption of their sugary drinks. Programs such as MyCokeRewards undermine parents’ and educators attempts to help children to reduce their consumption and keep their children healthy.

Steps you can take:

  • Find out if any schools in your community have enrolled in the MyCokeRewards program. Click here to search by zip code.
  • If any of your schools has enrolled, consider formally un-enrolling from the Coke Rewards program.
  • Whether or not your any of your schools has enrolled in the MyCokeRewards program, adopt a formal policy prohibiting the acceptance of money from any beverage industry, through any kind of program. Inform all key stakeholders of the policy.
  • Please let us know what course of action you are considering.

Our organizations have joined together to find ways to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages across the state because we know that if we’re successful, all Rhode Islanders will benefit from decreased rates of obesity and obesity -related diseases. If you would like to get involved in this effort, we’d welcome your help. Please contact Sarah Stevens at the Rhode Island Medical Society to join the fight. You may email Sarah at sstevens@rimed.org.

For more information on the Alliance for a Healthier Rhode Island and sugar-sweetened beverages, please visit: http://www.powerprism.org/alliance-for-a-healthier-ri.htm.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request. We’d be happy to answer any questions or provide you with more information. Let’s work together for the health of our children!

Respectfully yours,

  • Care New England
  • Chefs Collaborative – Rhode Island Local
  • Community Catalyst, New England Alliance for Children’s Health
  • eat drink RI
  • Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island
  • Hospitals for a Healthy Environment – Rhode Island
  • Kids First/Real Food First
  • Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island
  • Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians
  • Rhode Island Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Rhode Island Dental Assistants Association
  • Rhode Island Dental Association
  • Rhode Island Diabetes Council
  • Rhode Island Environmental Education Association
  • Rhode Island Health Center Association
  • Rhode Island Medical Society
  • Rhode Island Psychological Association
  • Rhode Island Public Health Association
  • Rhode Island Public Health Institute
  • Rhode Island State Nurses Association
  • Samuels Sinclair Dental Center at Rhode Island Hospital
  • Slow Food Rhode Island
  • YMCA of Greater Providence

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