The choice between nutrition and moneymaking just got a little bit tougher in the Granite School District.

A new contract signed with PepsiCo allows elementary schools the option to install beverage vending machines offering a variety of drinks -- including some non-caffeinated soft drinks -- to children.The district has contracted exclusively with PepsiCo for the past five years, said McKell Withers, assistant superintendent for support services. The new contract is viable for up to 10 more years (with a year-to-year option to renew).

Withers said the reasoning behind the contract was simple -- it gives elementary schools one more option to raise revenues that directly benefits their children. It may only amount to a few thousand dollars per academic year, but it's money the schools get to keep and use to better the schools.

As well-intentioned as it may be, controversy has once again surfaced surrounding the move to put vending machines in schools. Some parents and principals have voiced their concern about providing "empty calorie" beverages to younger and younger kids in order to raise money.

But Withers answered back, saying none of the schools will be required to install the machines, and there will be no penalty or pressure should a school opt against it.

"We would need the support of the community to put a machine in the schools," Withers said. "This is not a mandate, just an option. An option requested by schools to generate a little revenue."

He emphasized that the machines would offer only bottled water, Ocean Spray fruit drinks, and isometric drinks like All-Sport during school hours. Non-caffeinated soft drinks would be available before and after school.

The contract provides for schools to receive commissions (revenues based solely on the sale of a product), contributions from PepsiCo, and certain "value-added services" that PepsiCo committed to contribute.

PepsiCo's contributions to the district for the multiyear contract will be a flat dollar amount, distributed to the schools on a per-pupil basis. If the relationship between the vendor and district is positive, Withers said the dollar amount would build over time. For example, if the relationship is carried out to its full 10 years, the district could receive about $2.25 per pupil. The district would then turn around and distribute those resources back to the schools.

Value-added services include educational software programs and the Pepsi-sponsored Academic Games, in which Granite district students have regularly participated.

All that made PepsiCo the district's first choice over competing vendors like Coca-Cola, which also submitted a proposal. Coke's proposal was intriguing, including the possibility that Granite schoolchildren could participate in Coke-sponsored Olympic programs. Coca-Cola is an international sponsor for the Olympic Games, including the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

But, Withers said Coke's offer was too "nebulous" to be meaningful. For its part, representatives from Swire Coca-Cola (the region's local bottler) admitted they have not even formed a local agreement with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Games, nor have they assembled a coordinating team to work with SLOC representatives.

Coke's attempt to sweeten their contract proposal with potential Olympic tie-ins wasn't much of a draw, Withers said.

"It was a nebulous framework that had nothing you could put roots to. And, absolutely the last thing we wanted to do as a district was to market a product for the Olympics. (Coke) just listed it in their proposal as something that -- for lack of a better description -- held a positive halo over their proposal. But it didn't come up in the (district's) discussions, and it wasn't a part of the decision."