For Immediate Release
CCFC to Scholastic: Stop the In-School SunnyD Sugar Spree
BOSTON - The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is demanding that Scholastic end its partnership with SunnyD to promote beverages of poor nutritional quality in preschools and elementary classrooms around the country. As part of the “SunnyD Book Spree,” students are asked to collect SunnyD labels and teachers are even encouraged to throw SunnyD parties in their classrooms—in exchange for 20 free Scholastic books.
Scholastic has been actively promoting the program to teachers despite the fact that SunnyD bears little resemblance to juice or any other healthy beverage. Sweetened by both artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), an 8-ounce serving contains a whopping 20 grams of sugar. Other mysterious chemical ingredients include: cellulose gum, xanthan gum, sodium hexametaphosphate, and sodium benzoate. Most troubling, and a sure sign SunnyD isn’t exactly natural, the product gets its orange hue from Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, two artificial colors that contain known carcinogens and can cause allergies and hyperactivity in children.
“Once again, Scholastic is abusing its privileged position in schools. The company is marketing a product that threatens children’s well-being to a captive student audience,” said CCFC’s director Dr. Susan Linn. “It is safe to say that no teacher would throw a SunnyD party if it weren’t for Scholastic’s involvement.”
Despite a nationwide push to improve school-food environments because of concerns about childhood obesity, Scholastic continues to promote foods of poor nutritional quality in classrooms. In addition to the SunnyD promotion, the company has marketed M&M’s and Dairy Queen video games through its school book clubs.
CCFC was alerted to the Book Spree by Angela Stephens of Lakewood, Colorado who was shocked when her six-year-old “launched into a commercial for SunnyD” at the supermarket. Angela's family goes to great lengths to protect her son from commercial influences and never purchases SunnyD because of the family’s concerns about HFCS. But when her son excitedly told her that if she bought SunnyD his class would get free books, Angela realized why he was lobbying so hard: his teacher told him to.
“It’s disappointing that Scholastic and SunnyD would exploit my son’s great relationship with his teacher,” said Stephens. “He’s only nagging for these sugary drinks because he wants to help his school."
A Scholastic representative told us that the SunnyD program is strictly for parents and teachers and does not involve children. But the SunnyD Book Spree website tells a different story. The “Tips for Teachers” include the following:
- Have a class party to "raise labels" for books—ask parents to send kids in with SunnyD.
- Keep fun cut-outs or colorful charts in the classroom, showing how many SunnyD labels have been collected.
Students are also asked to bring a letter home to their parents that is pre-written by SunnyD and festooned with the company’s logos. The takeaway message for children and families? In these difficult times, teachers want kids to support their school by drinking SunnyD.
“With so many schools struggling, companies like Scholastic are all-to-happy to rush in and profit from their dire financial situation,” said Michele Simon, author of Appetite for Profit. “But educators need to ask themselves: what is the cost of commercializing and promoting sugar-laden and potentially cancer-causing beverages to their young students?”
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England (www.tsne.org).