Taking Money From Pepsi, Coke, etc. is Damaging to our Healthy Food Movement and Public Health

It’s time for a thoughtful discussion on the topic of whether health organizations and others should accept funding from junk food purveyors like Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, McDonald’s or Frito Lay, or if it’s best to accept no funding at all from the food/beverage industry.

Pepsi, Coke, McDonald’s and others use their philanthropy to purchase allies and silence potential critics just like Big Tobacco did. By accepting funding from these industry giants, , would be simultaneously promoting a brand that markets junk food and unhealthy sugary beverages – specifically targeting kids, teens and low-income consumers

A few more of my thoughts and then I look forward to more of your comments:

– No doubt there is a dearth of funding for the projects and advocacy that many of us are involved in. It’s extremely frustrating.
– Deep pocketed companies like Coke, Pepsi and McDonald’s are well aware of the lack of funding and that’s what makes their “philanthropy” so devious. They know that if they dangle funding in front of cash-starved health/wellness/food security and other groups, they will find many takers – and simultaneously silence potential critics of their products and marketing practices.
– Ever since sugary drink taxes were proposed, Big Beverage has been in a philanthropic frenzy to try to co-opt as many groups as possible. Witness recent Big Beverage donations to:
o The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for obesity prevention programs – I kid you not! ($10 million was promised if Philly did not pass a sugary drink tax – they didn’t and the donation was made)
o The American Academy of Family Physicians for a partnership with Coca-Cola
o Save the Children ($5 Million from PepsiCo) and the promise of a major grant donation from Coca-Cola, all to get the organization to stop advocating for passage of sugary drink taxes (they stopped advocating).

The Pepsi Refresh campaign is just another high profile way for Pepsi to use its deep pockets to spread “good cheer” and silence critics. According to a friend who is extremely cognizant of beverage and fast food industry marketing to the Hispanic and African American communities, “In minority communities fast food and Big Soda have aligned with practically every recognized advocacy and aspirational non-profit organization.”

That’s not by accident. It’s clearly a carefully thought out strategy (remarkably similar to the strategy of Big Tobacco) to try to buy silence from as many organizations/market segments/communities as possible.

In my opinion, organizations that accept this type of tainted, special interest money not only damage their credibility but are complicit in presenting Big Beverage/fast food purveyors (and their products, by association) as benevolent benefactors.

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