New vending machines spark controversy


Kathryn McAuliffe

A student holds up two cans of the popular beverage.

With school back in session, students are in search of snacks. The familiar vending machines are now replaced with sleek machines stocked with Pepsi products, including Mountain Dew Kickstart. 

This change occurred over the summer when Parkway–as required on a regular basis–requested beverage vendors to submit bids. Parkway determined that a switch to Pepsi would be financially beneficial.

The shift was determined over summer break as that is when the bid process was conducted. It had been five years since the last time we conducted a proposal evaluation for these particular services and was thus due,” Parkway Director of Sustainability and Purchasing Erik Lueders said. “Upon evaluation, it was determined that Parkway would be in a significantly better financial position by shifting to Pepsi rather than Coca-Cola.”

Community outrage sparked on Facebook when an image of the new vending machines was shared. Parents and community members voiced strong opinions on the inclusion of Mountain Dew Kickstart in the machines. 

“It sets a very bad example for students. [Kickstarts] contain a lot of caffeine and [are] high in sugar. It’s marketed as a juice even though it’s only about 5% juice. It contains empty calories which contribute to obesity and is addictive because all of the sugar and caffeine,” Parkway parent Karen Caudill said. “All teenagers are predisposed to addiction because of the way their brains are wired. [The] bottom line is that people need to make their own decisions, but this is a bad idea.” 

Students are concerned with the nutritional quality of the food and drinks offered in the vending machines, along with the message that it sends. 

“Kickstarts are bad for your heart and your body, they’re worse than regular soda products, which they don’t sell because Parkway claims it’s unhealthy. [Parkway] needs to put in more snack options or even regular sodas. [Parkway talks] so much about being healthy, but Kickstarts are a very unhealthy drink,” sophomore Ellie Moriarity said. “They raise your heart rate, and they’re putting out a message that if you’re stressed out or tired from studying late at night,  you can just take a Kickstart, when in fact [Parkway] should be talking about healthy habits and getting enough sleep, drinking water––not just taking an energy drink. Students shouldn’t have to take an energy drink to do well in school.” 

Healthier products, like Bubbly sparkling water were introduced along with new payment methods, namely, Apple Pay. Pepsi will also allow school organizations, like the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), to purchase from outside vendors.

“Essentially, we were able to get Pepsi to agree to add very specific language to the contract to explicitly allow PTOs, clubs and teams to purchase Pepsi products from places like Sam’s, Costco, Schnucks, etc. for reselling for fundraising purposes which is something Coke was unwilling to do,” Parkway School Board President Jeff Todd said. “This provides significant savings to those groups versus having to buy products directly from Pepsi. This savings translates directly to greater fundraising dollars for the PTO and other groups.”  

Besides finances, Parkway considered vendors’ environmental sustainability, financial condition and background, among other factors. Parkway’s switch saved the district $50,000 for student activities, like robotics competitions. Parkway schools have the option of changing items in the vending machines, but it is unclear if the school will make the shift. 

“I think before Parkway changes anything they need to ask the student body about the Mountain Dew controversy and see how they feel about it, not just teachers and parents, but those who are actually impacted by this,” junior Zoey Womick said. “At the end of the day, it’s our school, and we’re the ones whose opinions should matter.”