In 2013, the City University of New York signed a ten-year contract with PepsiCo, with the company receiving exclusive marketing and selling rights across twenty-five CUNY campuses. In exchange, PepsiCo paid the university system a hefty $21 million. This is called a pouring rights contract.
These agreements are incredibly common on college campuses. Companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Company receive long-term promotions for their drinks, which helps cover costs related to the university. However, this in turn leads colleges to promote unhealthy foods. This is in spite of the foods’ negative effects. CUNY’s contract expires in 2023. The cessation raises a question: what will the future of campus food look like?
In May of 2011, Healthy CUNY Initiative (HCI) launched the CUNY Campaign for Healthy Food (CHeF). This program seeks the improvement of campus food choices. CHeF’s goal is to educate campus communities about diet-related health issues. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Health funds both programs.
CHeF invites the campus community to reimagine food and beverage programs. One of their hopes is to provide healthier options in cafeterias and vending machines. Namely, they want to reduce the consumption of sugary-sweet beverages (SSBs) such as sodas, some corporate teas, and much more. The organization provided an ideal timeline, with short-term and long-term goals.
The first thing is they want CUNY to better fit NYC Food Standards. Dining halls would remove SSB marketing and only advertise water, with SSB and empty-calorie food options being reduced. In addition, posting calorie information flyers around dining halls and food stands would allow students to make more informed choices, which they believe is ideal. CHef wants CUNY to create an educational campaign, which would encourage students to drink water.
To combat waste, they want strategies for single-use plastic waste reduction to be provided as well. The organization urges CUNY to install new water fountains and update existing ones. Potential areas on the Queens College campus include the Dining Hall, Library, and fountains in close proximity to vending machines. These installations would reduce waste from plastic water bottles.
They hope that CUNY can provide a wide range of beverage options. Universities could replace SSB revenue with slotting fees and advertising fees from many companies. The advocacy group has ideas such as: juice, kombucha, and coconut water companies. Other options include coffee and tea brands. Queens College students communicate similar interests.
When asked by The Knight News, students seemed unaware of the pouring rights contract. However, some noted the agreement’s effects. A student leader observed limited soft drinks at Council of Club Presidents (CCP) meetings with beverage choices only including Pepsi, Crush, or ginger ale. The same leader wished for vegetarian options at key events like Welcome Day.
Other students told The Knight News that they wished for more Asian and Italian cuisines on campus. Still, others wanted more flavors of iced coffee. Some hoped to see more Chinese drink brands.
Sophomore political science and economics major Omar Ahmed says that the dining halls have a good variety. He said, “Discounting cost as an obstacle [and] more foods with fresh ingredients would be amazing.”
Junior Ralph Matamoros wished for more vegetarian options. He pointed out that, “Queens Hall has none in their cafe, unless you count the Farmer’s vending machine.” It’s worth noting that the machine only accepts credit and debit cards.
To learn more about CHeF, visit here.