By Roger L. Kirk
In the spring of 2003, the Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) in Lexington, Ky., realized it had a problem. The district's soft drink vending contract was fast approaching its renewal date, and it had no snack-vending contract in force.
State and federal officials were debating multiple versions of bans or restrictions on soft drink vending in school districts. The recession was in full swing, and both the district and the vendor were feeling a financial squeeze. Momentum was building to ask the current vendor if it could agree to simply extend the existing contract.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the soft drink machine—something that would change the course of soft drink and snack vending in the district and create healthy new vending options.
A local health department official who was working to develop a healthier approach to vending spoke to the district's parent-teacher-student organization on the impact of sugar in young people's diets, particularly from soft drinks. She noticed that one fellow made several suggestions and comments, so after the meeting she asked if he could spare a few moments the next day to meet with a few members of the school district vending committee.
That fellow she spoke to just happened to be me. I'd had 20 years' experience negotiating contracts, but it was the first time I had done something like this.
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