Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Simple Solution to Put an End to Hospital Junk Food Fundraising

So it's Slices for Smiles time again. That's the campaign that sees Canada's children's hospitals shilling $2 fast food pizzas in the name of fundraising.

As I've reported in the past, the splashy campaign, when divvied up and considered in the context of a hospital's annual budget, doesn't earn all that much. Last year for instance, Slices for Smiles saw its most successful campaign ever and was reported to have raised $50,000 per participating hospital. That $50,000 in turn pays for roughly two hours of a medium sized children's hospital's annual operating expenses (and in the case of a large one's, about 33 minutes worth).

In terms of what Slices for Smiles provides Pizza Pizza, well it provides them with a year long campaign, the ability to capitalize on the charitable goodwill of a nation to sell pizzas, to create powerful emotional branding which in turn might lead to lifelong customers, to latch onto a cause that in turn is beyond reproach, and to have hospitals further normalize the regular consumption of fast food.

And of course it's not just Slices for Smiles, but also Miracle Treat Day, Tim Horton's Smile Cookies, DQ Cake Day, McHappy Days, and then many one-of events like the one that had BC Children's Hospital Foundation selling chocolate bars.


The argument generally used to defend junk food fundraising is simple dollars. Hospitals need money and if they don't get it from junk food fundraising, where are they going to get it from?

Well I may have an answer.

It's called FundScrip.

The way Fundscrip works is simple. Organizations sell gift cards for stores people go to already (pharmacies, gas stations, supermarkets, clothing stores, coffee shops, etc.). People who purchase the gift cards use them just like cash. The organization gets a cut.

According to their webpage, if a hospital were to enroll just 500 families a year to use FundScrip to buy their annual groceries and gas the hospital would raise $171,000/yr - an amount likely far greater than any hospital's total annual junk food fundraising haul.

Given a medium sized hospital has at least 2,000 staff and sees over 70,000 patients a year, recruiting 500 families to use FundScrip in the name of ejecting junk food fundraising and/or simply in the name of fundraising seems like a very doable goal.

Moreover, if the Canada wide Children's Miracle Network, the network responsible for both Miracle Treat Day and Slices For Smiles, were to champion year-long FundScrip campaigns in their stead, I've little doubt they too could give junk food fundraising the boot and in so doing, raise more money than do their current awful offerings.

Selling illness in the name of health is an oxymoron, and doing so when there are non-junk food means to raise the same amount of, if not more money, is inexcusable.

Hoping to see leadership from hospitals (and health foundations/networks) in putting an end to junk food fundraising - who better than them to lead the charge?

[And if you want a quick sense of just how pervasive junk food fundraising is, have a peek at my modest collection of posts on same]

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