Monday, June 04, 2012

SickKids Foundation President Defends Junk Food Fundraising

So last Monday I blogged about how SickKids Foundation was hypocritically normalizing eating out and encouraging the consumption of junk food in the name of raising money to combat childhood obesity .

I sent my post over to SickKids Foundation president Ted Garrard and he was kind enough to send me a response as well as give me permission to post it.

Basically Mr. Garrard's position is that because those same institutions that are inviting people to purchase such things as onion rings, pizzas, cookies, desserts, Chinese take out have "low fat" items too, that it's alright.

To me that's the food industry apologists' version of the, "but I was just following orders" argument.

Have a read, and if you're interested in sending your thoughts to Mr. Garrard, you can do so by clicking here, or leave a comment on the blog as I'm hopeful the Foundation will be reading,
Dear Dr. Freedhoff,

Thank you for your e-mail and for taking an interest in our first-ever Healthy & Happy campaign. We take all comments and feedback seriously.

In your recent blog about SickKids, you allude to several cause marketing relationships linked to our current campaign. These are valued corporate partners of SickKids Foundation who have come on board to help us raise critical funds for The Hospital for Sick Children.

These corporate sponsors offer a wide range of food and beverage choices, including low-fat options for the health conscious consumer. These are also family-friendly retailers and restaurants and we believe their customers align with our target demographic for this campaign. We believe that important components of a healthy and happy lifestyle include making healthy food choices, being active, being mindful of portion sizes and all things in moderation.

That said, we will take feedback like yours into consideration as we move forward with planning next year’s Healthy & Happy campaign.

The Healthy & Happy effort is based on one simple premise – every child deserves to be healthy and happy. Ultimately we are trying to create a platform to discuss the seriousness of child health issues while reflecting the spirit of happiness which we believe is so important for all children. It is meant to be a positive and feel good experience for anyone who is touched by our campaign. If you visit our site at you will see the positive influence this campaign is having for families who rely on SickKids every day.

Please know that we appreciate and value your perspective, and I want to thank you again for your feedback.


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  1. So... if that's the case, why don't they then run the promotion with some of the healthier items on the menu. And how is a tower of onion rings "moderation." I've seen a few towers of onion rings in restaurants, and they are not modest little servings

    I don't agree with this group's emphasis on obesity -- why does it always have to be about the fat, and not simply about activity and good diet for ALL kids? But it strikes me that this promotion is ridiculously inconsistent with their mission.

  2. Took his advice and went to the website. Here's the "tip sheet" for parents who want to rear healthy, happy children:

    As I read it, one can infer that eating a tower of onion rings might just sabotage a healthy, happy life.

  3. Sally9:17 am

    A "tower" of rings does not suggest a moderate sampling.

  4. Two repeated themes that the restaurant industry keeps saying: 1) Even fast-food restaurants like McD's DO offer healthy choices like salads and 2) "Everything in moderation; there are no good/bad foods, etc.".

    It's also true, though, that people tend not to select the healthier choices and prefer eating the bad items. Also true that "moderation" is a vague and subjective term.

  5. Disappointingly, the Foundation seems to lack a commitment to science-based medicine. I am reminded of its previously publicized "neutral stance" towards complementary and alternative medicine which led to its support of an autism conference that touted a linkage between autism and vaccines. (Ref: )And on a related theme, the Foundation has even sponsored studies of homeopathy in ADHD: (Ref: )Clearly there needs to be more communication between the Foundation and the superb researchers within SickKids itself.

  6. When I see an item on a menu that has a note that says something along the lines of "We'll donate to this good cause if you buy this item," it's likely to encourage my purchase of that particular item. Indeed, that's exactly why these food companies partner with groups like the SickKids Foundation.

    So the SickKids logo could be used for good, not evil, by being placed only next to those "better" choices that Mr. Garrard alludes to. Placing them next to an "Onion Rings Tower"? Not so much.

    Additionally, Mr. Garrard should note that "low-fat options" are not what we need for the "health-conscious consumer." Healthy-fat, low-sugar, and low-refined-grains options are.

  7. The biggest problem with these "healthy alternatives" peddled by chain restaurants is that they taste hideous. When you take low quality highly processes food and serve it without a boatload of salt, fat and sugar, you end up with something barely edible. To call these inedible products "alternatives" that children should choose is ludicrous. Until the overall quality of these processed frankenfoods is addressed seriously, all this bluster about chain restaurants "caring" about health and wanting to balance "choice" with profits will be nothing more than a pathetic joke.

  8. Hilary2:04 pm

    Here's the thing, I think that most truly healthy organizations and businesses (of which there are few) rarely have the capital to invest and become large corporate sponsors to places like Sick Kids. So if I am Sick Kids and need large donations, I am most likely to take money from whomever is willing to donate. It is tremendously unfortunate and a very backwards system. It is clearly the wrong way to go about things, and as you said in your original post, its like a cancer hospital selling cigarettes. Having said that I kind of understand that they - like all other organizations - see only through the lens of money in order to reach their desired goals. Its the same reason Breakfast For Learning and Nutella partnered up. I wish it were different, but I have little faith that it will ever change.

  9. Anonymous2:56 pm

    I hate the assumption that we have to feed anyone, least of all children, crappy food like substances in order to 'make' them happy. Real food is seen as something to be endured, but not enjoyed and anyone who says they actually like real, whole foods, is looked upon as weird. How did we get here? Manufactures are doing a fabulous job at peddling their crap, that's for sure.

    1. Yes, yes, YES! We get over and over the message that you suffer through good food and only really enjoy treats. Now that I pretty much gave myself radical permission to eat whatever I want and I listen to my body, more and more I crave healthy, whole foods. (Granted, I was the kid who finished off the salad every night, sans dressing.)

      I think when we use expressions like "eat your peas" to indicate something you hold your nose and do for your own good, we do a disservice to kids who might actually prefer the peas.

  10. Anonymous5:05 pm

    Wow. Some people are so naive.

  11. Anonymous1:17 pm

    Because low fat equates to low calories. Pass me the Sugary Soda, am on a cut...