In a sickening development involving the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to improve the nutrition, fitness and health of the nation’s children, the initiative’s celebrity spokeswoman, Beyoncé, accepted a $50 million deal to sell Pepsi. She’ll be hawking soda to kids on TV, at grocery stores, on Pepsi cans, during the Super Bowl halftime and in other marketing formats for the foreseeable future.
What was she thinking? Back in 2011, Beyoncé and the First Lady teamed up for Let’s Move’s! campaign against childhood obesity with this kid’s workout video. But now, Beyoncé is playing for the opposing team as well, promoting a drink that dozens of studies have identified as the main driver of America’s current childhood obesity epidemic.
Never mind that:
– For each additional 12 ounce soda children consumed each day, the odds of becoming obese increased by 60%.
– Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other soft drink manufacturers specifically target children, teens, African-American youth and Hispanic youth through their marketing.
– Soda consumption has also been linked to increased rates of heart disease, diabetes and dental decay.
None of those depressing statistics seemed to phase Beyoncé, mother to a one-year old daughter. And she certainly didn’t pause to question whether she would be sending a dangerous mixed message to America’s youth, when many view her as a dazzling role model.
But Beyoncé’s massive insensitivity and cognitive dissonance could actually be a watershed moment in the debate about food marketing to children — if only America’s parents stand up and protest her ill-advised deal to market soda to their kids. Celebrity endorsements are a fact of life in the food marketing world and a noisy grass roots uprising against Beyoncé could get other celebrities to back off from endorsing soda, sugary drinks, chips, candy and other non-nutritious foods to impressionable kids. Remember, once upon a time, celebrities regularly hawked tobacco products. Now they wouldn’t be caught dead having any association with cigarettes.
If enough parents signed this petition, both Beyoncé and the White House would take notice. While Beyoncé may not be able to extricate herself from her Pepsi contract, the least she could do is resign from Let’s Move! and donate her fee to childhood obesity prevention efforts. And the First Lady, who has done so much to promote healthy eating, physical activity and awareness about childhood obesity, needs to ensure that her partners/celebrity spokespersons walk the talk.
The White House knows that Beyoncé’s Pepsi deal is an embarrassment to Let’s Move! and Michelle Obama, but has remained mum on the topic. Just last week, the White House actually removed a petition from its “We the People” website, posted by environmental activist Laurie David, asking that Beyoncé be ousted from the inauguration lineup because of her damaging deal with Pepsi. I can’t help but find it telling that the White House posted a detailed response to a “We the People” petition asking the administration to construct a Death Star, but censored the Beyoncé petition.
Well, the White House can’t censor this petition:
Please sign and share this petition link with your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. If we don’t stand up to Big Soda and Beyoncé pushing soda on our kids, no one will.