Over the last year, Save the Children emerged as a leader in the push to tax sweetened soft drinks as a way to combat childhood obesity. The nonprofit group supported soda tax campaigns in Mississippi, New Mexico, Washington State, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia. At the same time, executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity.
The talks with Coke are still going on. But the soda tax work has been stopped. In October, Save the Children surprised activists around the country with an e-mail message announcing that it would no longer support efforts to tax soft drinks. In interviews this month, Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer of Save the Children, said there was no connection between the group’s about-face on soda taxes and the discussions with Coke. A $5 million grant from PepsiCo also had no influence on the decision, she said. Both companies fiercely oppose soda taxes.
Ms. Miles says Save the Children no longer supports soda taxes because they're "too controversial" and not, again, because her organization cashed a seven-figure check from a soda company. And she greatly resents the insinuation that money might have influenced her organization's decision.