In a new initiative to help US schools raise critical resources -- and at the same time address child health and nutrition concerns, and promote balance -- Coca-Cola is to offer a wider range of in-school beverage choices, albeit restricted to its own brands.

The Atlanta-headquartered beverages mammoth has issued a manifesto, Model Guidelines for School Beverage Partnerships. It will apply to all current and future relationships between Coca-Cola and America's K-12 schools [for children up to high-school age].

The new program, developed in direct consultation with leaders from the education community, is designed to help school decision-makers respond to concerns about commercialism and nutrition while maintaining their ability to raise money for their schools.

Says Coca-Cola Enterprises president/coo John R Alm: "We listen carefully to parents and educators who value our partnerships with schools. And we have developed guidelines that give educators the power to choose what's right for their students, and the flexibility to raise funds for important youth development and physical activity initiatives that are especially vital in today's budget climate."

And from the same hymnsheet, Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education harmonizes: "School administrators who create partnerships with beverage companies can use these guidelines to address issues such as commercialism and nutrition that tend to drive debates about beverage contracts."

The voluntary guidelines apply to all Coca-Cola's commercial activities in schools. They address four key issues of special concern to school administrators:

1. Contracts and financial arrangements

2. Beverage availability and a wider variety of choice

3. Logos and signage on school grounds

4. Program and product promotions

The program commits Coca-Cola to …

• Respect the right of parents, teachers and school officials to choose the beverages that will be available to their students.

• Provide a reliable and consistent level of resources for the length of the partnership, rather than one-time, upfront payments. This approach will help to even out budget fluctuations from year to year and provide a consistent amount of funds to schools over time.

• Discourage the use of brokers or "third-party" intermediaries, as they charge fees to schools and school districts that diminish the revenues that are available to schools.

As to content of the in-school vending machines …

• Carbonated soft drinks will not be made available to students in elementary schools during the school day. Products for students in elementary schools should include 100% juices, milk-based products, juice drinks, rehydrating sports drinks and waters.

• Products for middle and high school cafeterias should include 100% juices, milk-based products, juice drinks, teas, rehydrating sports drinks and water.

• Vending machines in middle schools may include 100% juices, milk-based products, water, juice drinks, teas, rehydrating sports drinks and carbonated soft drinks.

• Vending machines in high schools should include 100% juices, milk-based products, water, juice drinks, teas, rehydrating sports drinks and carbonated soft drinks.

• A full array of juices, water and other products will be made available wherever carbonated soft drinks are sold.

• Beverage pricing should encourage choice. Carbonated soft drinks, when and where available, and Dasani water will be offered to students at the same price and in comparable packages.

In addition, in-school promotional activities will be limited to programs requested by school officials to support academic achievement and physical activity.

And all such promotions must connect to physical activity, academic achievement, or positive youth development. School decision-makers should shape these activities in accordance with the wishes of their communities, and in compliance with school and school district policies.

• Meantime, in the UK -- in acknowledgement of the concern over child obesity and surge of opposition to the marketing of high-sugar, high-fat products to children -- Coca-Cola has decided that none of its brands shall be directly marketed to under-twelves.
    The voluntary move means that no Coke brands will be advertised during children's TV programmes. Nor, unless there is an educational or physical benefit, will they be marketed via promotions targeting primary school children.
    But Coke's UK communications director Martin Norris said its promotional marriage with the Harry Potter money-machine will continue because it is aimed at "improving literacy".

Data sourced from: Coca-Cola and BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff