Thank you to Nancy Huehnergarth, former co-founder and executive director of the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance (NYSHEPA), for sharing the following piece of industry co-optation history with us:
“I’m reading Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss (which is fantastic and I highly recommend it to everyone) and came across this gem in the “Sugar” section. Sounds awfully familiar, don’t you think?
Moss describes how in the mid-1950s, General Foods determinedly infiltrated the American Home Economics Association, which was, at the time, dedicated to teaching healthy, home cooking from scratch. In contrast, General Foods (the food mega-corporation of the time) was promoting newfangled processed (“convenience”) foods like cake mixes, Stove Top Stuffing, Bisquick, Minute Rice, Jell-O and Post cereals. In order to increase sales and undermine the teachings of the home economics instructors of that era:
“…the processed food industry had to come up with another, more insidious strategy. Like the Hoover-era FBI pursuing its enemies list, the industry infiltrated the association of home economics teachers. This operation started with money and advertising, an archive of the association’s journal reveals.
In 1957 alone, General Foods funneled $288,250 into the grants and fellowship program of the home economics association, winning the gratitude of a generation of teachers. The association then devoted a special section of its journal to publicizing all the convenient products, from Stove Top Stuffing to nine-serving cake mixes. And General Foods and other manufacturers took out big ads for the hospitality booths they set up at the association fairs.
Then the food industry began sending people to further reshape the association to its own designs. It sponsored candidates for the organization’s top leadership posts, candidates who would bring a decidedly pro-industrial view to home economics…”
The above passage certainly hits close to home. It is precisely the infiltration of the food industry in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that we want to come to an end, so we can once and for all take back the Registered Dietitian credential.