When you walk into the Peirce servery and get a drink from the soda fountain, do you stop and think about how your college is able to serve name-brand beverages? No? I’ll tell you how: Kenyon, at this very moment, has contracts with two of the largest corporations in America: Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
This might not bother you. Peirce is our only dining hall and should accommodate students’ tastes, which is why we have these contracts, according to AVI Executive Sous Chef Meagan Stewart, who sat down to talk with me about them.
The contracts work like this: A certain amount of our tuition goes toward dining, and some of that money goes to purchasing products to serve, like soda. Stewart says orders are refilled weekly, which adds up to huge quantities of soda on campus.
To serve these drinks we must have contracts. The contracts provide Kenyon with a machine and guaranteed free machine repairs. In Peirce, there is one machine for Coke and its affiliated beverages, like Sprite. The other machine is for Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Brisk and such. The monopolies these two companies have on brand-name drinks exemplify why I find it problematic that we are working with them.
The fact is Coke and Pepsi represent the height of corporate power. Though obesity is a problem in this country, because of their power the entities that are the catalyst of this epidemic (processed food companies, which includes soft-drink companies) can completely deny their involvement. Soda companies consistently publish studies and put out statements denying the link between sugary beverages and obesity.
But in 2010, 57,636 cases of type 2 diabetes, or adult onset diabetes, were diagnosed in children nationwide, according to the 2014 documentary Fed Up. It is unsettling that we, Kenyon College, are in business (through AVI) with companies that incentivize power over human well-being.
We are working with companies that are complicit in young children having major medical problems. I am not saying Peirce isn’t health-conscious because they happen to serve unhealthy beverages — quite the opposite, and we should be very thankful for all that Peirce does.
Another reason I find these relationships problematic because that they make the presence of name brands seem normal. How, at an undergraduate institution where we as students are still forming our own moral compases, should we be forced to accept the wrath that is the American corporation? Perhaps this helps pop the Kenyon bubble, but I do not want soda in my cafeteria.
It is OK to like and drink soda. However, these contracts don’t represent Kenyon. I do not think this school is attempting to create a community that unabashedly supports corporate power.
Eve Bromberg ’19 is undeclared from Brooklyn, N.Y. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.