Over the next two and a half months, Sprite will have more than $600,000 up for grabs in the Sprite Sparks Parks contest, a school-based competition for playground and athletic-field upgrades. Schools will compete for one of 25 grants worth $25,000 up through Sept. 30 of this year.
“The Sprite Spark Parks Project for Schools supports local communities and breathes new life into the recreation spaces that are so important to teens,” said Michael Mathews, vice president of Sparkling Non-Colas, Coca-Cola North America, in a press release. “We saw an ongoing need for outdoor spaces at schools. Sprite is adding a spark back into school playgrounds and athletic fields by building places where youth can get active and stay refreshed with their friends.”
Specially marked packages of Sprite will have “My Coke Rewards” codes, which can be entered online and will allow users to nominate their local schools for the grants.
Sprite plans on spending more than $2 million this year building or revamping a bare minimum of 150 outdoor spaces, such as playgrounds, athletic fields, and basketball courts. The company isn’t waiting until October to get started; this month, it’s giving seven K-12 schools a $25,000 makeover on their playgrounds or athletic fields.
It’s impossible to write this entry without pointing out that soda companies aren’t often seen as partners in the fight against childhood obesity. In fact, you don’t have to Google search for too long before finding a study
suggesting a direct link between soft drink consumption and childhood obesity.
That said, the major soda companies have started chipping in against childhood obesity in recent years. In May 2006, Coca-Cola Co., Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, and PepsiCo Inc. agreed
to withdraw all full-calorie carbonated sugary beverages from schools by the 2009-10 school year. According to a 2010 press release from the American Beverage Association, those three companies did deliver on their promise, resulting in a 88 percent decrease in calories shipped to schools from beverage companies since 2004.
I’ll guiltily confess: Back in my high school, we had a few soda machines throughout the building, and I’d be known to frequent said machines. Removing that opportunity from K-12 students during the school day certainly won’t hurt in the fight against childhood obesity.
Now, with Sprite donating more than $2 million for the renovation of athletic fields and playgrounds—namely, outdoor spaces meant to promote physical activity in students—it’s becoming harder to accuse these major soda companies of not pulling their weight in this fight. (Pardon the bad pun.)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.