Healthy CUNY says no to CUNY Pepsi Partnership


Theen Moy | Flickr

Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

Healthy CUNY, a coalition of students, faculty and staff at CUNY has launched a campaign opposing the renewal of CUNY’s Pouring Rights Contract, which grants exclusive beverage marketing and distribution rights to PepsiCo Inc. on CUNY campuses.

The campaign, which is gaining momentum across Baruch College, argues that the contract is detrimental to the health of students, faculty and staff.

The coalition cites many studies that link the consumption of sugary beverages to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

In an interview with The Ticker, Ada Liang and William Huynh, campus organizers for Healthy CUNY spoke on the importance of their mission to spread awareness about CUNY’s partnership.

Liang and Huynh spoke about the feedback they received from Baruch students.
“Personally, with the people I was talking to and the offices I was trying to get my posters in, they were really concerned about this issue,” Liang said. “Most of them never even heard of this issue so [our campaign is] starting to open people’s eyes up to this issue.”

In addition to health concerns, the campaign also raises issues of equity and social justice.

According to Healthy CUNY, the Pouring Rights Contract disproportionately affects low-income and minority students, who are more likely to suffer from diet-related health problems.

The coalition argues that CUNY should prioritize the health and well-being of its most vulnerable students and reject the contract.

Healthy CUNY is calling on CUNY’s Board of Trustees to reject the renewal of the Pouring Rights Contract, which is set to expire at the end of 2023.

The coalition is urging CUNY to adopt a comprehensive beverage policy that promotes the consumption of healthy beverages, such as water, and restricts the availability of sugary beverages on campus.

CUNY communities’ fight against unhealthy drinks is not unprecedented. In 2013, multiple campuses including CUNY’s law school banned Coke from their properties. The 2013 Brooklyn College student senate passed a resolution to ban Coke on their premises as well.

Both Liang and her co-organizer said it is too early to gauge the results of their survey of students.

The CUNY Campaign for Healthy Food, CHeF, began its initiative in 2011, to supply healthier food options to the growing student population and make CUNY the healthiest public college system in the nation.

Huynh said students need to integrate more health-conscious eating habits into their lives.

“College students eating healthy is incredibly important to their academic success,” Huynh said.

CHeF proposed a policy plan, placing the university as a leader in reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among its student body.

In its recommendations, CHeF included a list of healthier options for specific areas of CUNY life, such as events that take place on CUNY campuses, including those serving beverages with fewer than 25 calories per eight ounces. Despite their policy proposal, CUNY moved forward with its plan.

The fate of the Pouring Rights Contract remains to be seen.