Today is the deadline for the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) to receive proposals for exclusive pouring rights and vending services for the next three years. This follows on the heels of the decision last month not to ban the sale of bottled water in RDN facilities because they would like to give people choice.
What does it mean to have an Exclusive Pouring Rights Contract?
In 2004, Sam Cooke wrote his master’s thesis on the effects of corporate sponsorship on public education. Just after signing an exclusive agreement with Coca-Cola in 1996, the drinking fountains throughout the University of British Columbia were covered up with plastic. Cooke also discovered that new buildings were being constructed without any drinking fountains.
He found that 114 drinking fountains were either removed or disabled. During that time,
students and staff were persuaded over the course of approximately six years, the false notion that the tap water at UBC was unfit for consumption. Ironically, he also discovered that the same tap water was being used by cafeterias for cooking.
In the spring of 2000, I witnessed a principal at Como Lake Middle School in Coquitlam using the school’s public address system to hold a contest persuading middle school students to buy more Coca-Cola beverages. The winning student would receive free tickets to an N.B.A. basketball game.
In November of 2000, the Vancouver Sun reported that school administrators told an Abbotsford teacher that her students ‘Marketing Twelve’ project to sell Jones Soda was unacceptable because of the school’s exclusive contract with Coca-Cola.
The Commercialism in Education Research Unit has studied the costs to society of schoolhouse commercialism. They point out in their 2011 annual report that students are prevented from critically thinking about the corporate message from a school sponsor. On the surface it may appear as though a corporate sponsor is providing a benefit such as supplies. Marketing is framed as being a “partnership” with schools. In the United States, things are going to an extreme, where some corporations are outbidding each other to get naming rights for sports teams and even re-naming schools.
According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) based in Washington, D.C., the average funding received from exclusive pouring rights is approximately $15 per student per year.
The True Cost
The RDN says that it wants the vending machines to sell “healthy food” but what does that mean? Sodexo and Aramark are two of the largest vending machine suppliers in Canada. Aramark has a close agreement with Pepsi, whereas Sodexo has paired up with Coca-Cola.
How does a small time operator compete? It just isn’t possible.
Give us Choice.
Agricultural Area Plan
The Agricultural Area Plan project was initiated in early 2011 by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) to support, preserve, and enhance viable agriculture and food production in the Nanaimo region. A central goal of this process is to engage people who are interested in local food – whether you’re growing it, preparing it, selling it or eating it.
Question: How does having an exclusive pouring rights and vending services contract promote this plan? Will you find a Vancouver Island made product or BC product for sale at any of the RDN’s facilities or vending machines? At UBC, the only place where Sam Cooke could buy SunRype apple juice made in the Okanagan, was from a vending machine in the Plant Operations Building. Why? The union had their own vending machine in their lunch room and they stocked it themselves.
Just so the RDN still looks good:
“On occasion, the RDN reserves the right to cover up beverages or vending signage for a specific event held in the facilities.”
Under this new exclusive agreement, the RDN “will provide and maintain any recycling containers for recyclable items from the vending machines and shall retain all recyclable containers to its own account.” Undoubtedly this will add to the RDN’s recycling costs. Last year, their garbage/recycling costs went over budget by $400,000.