Friday, September 23, 2011

Breakfast for Learning denies promoting Nutella

Below is a response from Wendy Wong, Breakfast for Learning's CEO and President. As per my convention here, I'm presenting her response completely and without commentary save to say I've contacted the anonymous teacher who'd sent me a concerned email and asked her for scans of the materials that led her to write in the first place.

Certainly were Ferraro sending out materials to schools in Breakfast for Learning's name, that'd be a very interesting turn of events

September 22, 2011

Dear Dr. Freedhoff,

I am writing in response to your September 22, 2011 blog entry titled, “Canada’s National Breakfast for Learning program promotes Nutella as Nutritious?!” and I would like to take this opportunity to point out the inaccuracies within this post and to clarify the relationship that Breakfast for Learning has with Nutella.

Specifically, I want to ensure you that Breakfast for Learning was not involved in distributing product samples. What this particular ad refers to is a door to door campaign which Ferrero Canada’s marketing company independently undertook to promote Nutella whereby they delivered product samples to a number of private homes.

Second, I also want to provide accurate information in regard to the blog post referencing an anonymous teacher who indicated that BFL had provided recipes to programs featuring the Nutella product and further indicating that BFL requires programs to follow a specified list of appropriate foods prominently featuring Nutella. Breakfast for Learning has never sent any Nutella recipes to our programs nor have we required programs to follow a specified list of appropriate foods clearly featuring Nutella. Therefore I would be quite interested to hear directly from the anonymous teacher to investigate this claim further. In addition, Breakfast for Learning encourages our programs to follow their appropriate provincial/territorial school nutrition guidelines as a matter of practice.

Since its inception, Breakfast for Learning has helped nourish over 2.5 million children from across Canada and has served over 350 million meals. Over the past decade, the number of our funded programs has almost quadrupled and we have seen a dramatic increase in requests for assistance across the country. Unfortunately with limited resources, we have not been able to fully support the demand for assistance.

As a charitable organization with limited funds, Breakfast for Learning is thankful and very pleased to work with many corporations and businesses that provide much needed support to help us realize our mission. Nutella is one of those organizations, who have supplied unrestricted funds to help the organization feed hungry children.

Our relationship with Nutella does not mean that we endorse their product nor promote or distribute their product in our programs. Rather, through our relationship with Nutella and our other donors we can ensure that more people know about our organization and hopefully lend their support to us and the child nutrition movement.

As a matter of practice Breakfast for Learning does not have any donor or sponsor representatives serving on our Board of Directors, meaning that we have highly independent governance practices. We are a registered charity that abides by all required legislative rules and standards and pride ourselves on ethical codes of conduct. We have an
organizational policy whereby we do not endorse any products and this is clearly stated in our donor agreements.

Your blog comments suggesting that BFL is a “sell-out “ NGO to the food industry is both inaccurate and disrespectful to BFL and to all of the generous food industry companies who provide philanthropic support to good causes such as ours. In fact, many charitable organizations rely on corporate support often coming from corporations who share an interest in the charities objectives. For example: health charities with pharmaceutical industry donors, and children’s charities with toy manufacturers, and children’s product suppliers in general.

In conclusion your blog comments appear to be made without a full understanding of BFL’s decision making process and parameters, and a lack of understanding in regard to ethical fundraising policies and procedures. Should you wish to speak with me further about this relationship I encourage you to contact me directly.


Wendy Wong
President and CEO

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  1. I think it's interesting that charitable organizations assume that corporations donating to their cause are doing so simply out of the goodness of their heart or out of pure support for the program. Corporations obviously donate for tax purposes, good marketing image, and for the opportunity to put their logo out there as a donor. Even if BFL isn't expressly promoting Nutella, the question is, what is Nutella even doing as a donor for a health-based promotion initiative? Shouldn't donors only be those solely devoted to healthy lifestyles for young children? I thought the purpose of programs like BFL was to promote healthy living for kids and their families. What if a program like BFL said all the right things, promoted healthy living, and instilled outstanding programs for schools and food that improved kids' lives? None of it would matter if their posters have Nutella, Sun Chips, and other snack food companies promoted as sponsors. It tells kids that this food is okay to eat and will not impede one's health, which will all know is not true.

  2. As a Past President and current Board member of a charitable organization we make ethical decisions all the time on whether the funds being donated are from a company which we feel fit with our mandate.

    I was appalled when I opened my mailbox the other day and found the sample package of Nutella with the promotion of healthy breakfast written on the front and back.

    Cross promotions are very effective marketing tools, but I do believe that we need to make ethical stands. We teach our children to "just say no" - when as business people are we going to learn to also 'Say no".

    I highly doubt Nutella would have donated funds without the ability to use the Breakfast for Learning in promotional material. The marketing firms cannot do mailout promotions without their approval, and I doubt they would use the BfL logo without their express permission.

    Healthy breakfast and snacks for kids in school should consist of basic foods - apples, oranges, veggies, etc.

    I have still have the samples of Nutella sitting on my counter if anyone would like them.

  3. Shannon9:52 pm

    Dear Breakfast for Learning,

    It is honourable that you are committed to providing food for families and students in need.

    You should NOT be associated with any big food company, ever, period.

    If a big food company wants to be associated with your company, or want to help, it should be done in an anonymous way.

    If you cannot do the job without the marketing dollars of big food, then you should not be in the non-profit business of feeding people. It is YOUR vision and your ethical standards that dictate this. Not your donors.

  4. Christine2:43 pm

    I cannot believe the reply from BFL. Anytime a charity enters into a sponsorship or donor agreement, it should be doing so with open eyes. The Board needs to carefully assess what being associated with the donor will do for the charity's image. And within any donor agreement there should always be a clause which clearly states how the charity's logo can be used.

    As mentioned in Robin's post, it is the responsibility of Board members to make ethical decisions with regard to cross promotion. I too have sat on many boards and my favourite line when making any decision has always been "What would the Globe and Mail do if they heard about this?" Perhaps BFL should ask the same question the next time they enter into a donor agreement.

  5. I don't think any charitable organization is under any illusion that a corporation is donating simply out of the goodness of their heart.

    But since it's such a tough sell even to get people to pay their fair share of taxes to support our society, I'm willing to defend BFL on accepting Nutella's support. There's thousands of hungry kids out there - a horrible fact of life here in this rich, first world country.

    BFL's out there walking the walk.