In her latest article, Dana Woldow of Beyond Chron takes a look at the upcoming School Nutrition Association (SNA) conference — and the large role Big Food plays.
- “With Congress working on the reauthorization of all child nutrition programs, including school meals, this year, SNA has come out strongly in favor of gutting those nutrition regulations. The organization leadership wants to allow more refined grains and sodium, and fewer fruits and vegetables, in school meals, and objects to Smart Snacks in Schools rules that have limited sales of snacks and junk food. Some have accused SNA of being little more than a front group for processed food manufacturers”
- “The SNA sponsorship brochure lists over $300,000 worth of sponsorship opportunities for the ANC. As the brochure says, “Sponsorship opportunities are available at many price points so you can find the best fit for your marketing budget.”
- Just $3,300 buys the chance to provide one item to be included in every official conference tote bag, where attendees might find an Otis Spunkmeyer Delicious Essentials cookie (“Healthy products don’t have to taste bad”).”
- “For the biggest bang, three lucky companies can each pay $25,000 to sponsor one of the general sessions (“Introduce the speaker…provide one collateral piece to be distributed as attendees enter the room… Your company name and logo strategically built into the entrance signage at the hall and displayed on large screens as attendees enter and exit the session.”)
- So who are those generous sponsors? Jennie-O Turkey spent over $25,000 on SNA’s ANC this year, while Domino’s Pizza, General Mills, the National Dairy Council (chocolate milk at breakfast!), Pepsi, Schwan’s, Tyson and Uncle Ben’s (Unilever) each forked over between $10,000-$24,999 to get their names out in front of the school food service folks.”
- “To be fair, there are plenty of worthwhile-sounding educational sessions at the ANC (“Experiential Nutrition Education: Promoting Healthy Habits”), and speakers like Dayle Hayes MS, RD, a tireless advocate for healthy school meals, whose excellent article “10 Ways School Lunch Haters Can Support Real School Food’ appeared in Beyond Chron in April.
So it’s not all just shilling for Big Food companies, and no doubt school food professionals can tell the difference between marketing and true education.
It’s just that the food and beverage industry spends billions annually on marketing (with the typical company spending about $4 million on marketing alone in 2013) for one reason and one reason only – because it works – and no one is immune to its effects.”