Tag Archive | food justice

is that an experience you’re drinking?

My dilemma and I were minding our own business at home, when suddenly an image of a Coca-Cola bottle, or what I thought was a Coca-Cola bottle appeared in the sidebar on my computer.

The accompanying words said, “This is not a Coca-Cola. It is an experience.” Really? It certainly looked like a Coca-Cola. While still confused, I was also informed that for Coca-Cola, experience goes far beyond the first sip and that I should make ‘experience’ my business.

With a little click, I found myself face-to-face with Coca-Cola’s VP of Global Design. He told me that they sell almost two billion, (2,000,000,000) servings, excuse me, ‘experiences’ a day. And thus, on a digital platform, he would like to have two billion conversations a day, because brands need to listen to their consumers who are all apparently craving choice and innovation.

If so, I hope he is fluent in Twi, one of the Kwa sub-groups of Niger-Congo languages, spoken in Ghana. In 2016, Coca-Cola launched a major initiative in Accra, called Taste the Feeling. It seems they were feeling bad for the millions there who had maybe not been privileged to enjoy the ‘experience’. Interestingly, a group of public health researchers has already done a little study accessing the marketing of non-alcoholic beverages in outdoor ads (visible signs) in a small section of Accra. Of seventy-seven ads, sixty percent featured sugar-sweetened Coca-Cola products–some fraction of which are near schools and feature children–I mean consumers, or soon-to-be ones–begging for conversation.

My dilemma caught my eye, knowing that this Mr. James Sommerville, would most likely not wish to hear from me. Given that it has been about forty-something years since my last sip, I could certainly not claim to be a consumer, thus depriving the company of that 2,000,000,001 serving. Ah, but he had certainly provoked my ire with this seductive, manipulative, alluring message about the right friends, the right time, the right glass–and the tingle.

Might I suggest that he is high fructose corn syrup coating the ‘experience’ or seeing it through caramel-colored glasses–with a blast of phosphoric acid and caffeine. Or, that he has drunk too much of the figurative Koolaid– aka the company’s addictive secret syrupy recipe.

While it is certainly possible he may have already seen my anti-Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) rants, it is not likely. If not, maybe, because like me, he’s recently been watching the 9-Part Docuseries, iThrive, Rising from the Depths of Diabetes and Obesity. But, I don’t think so.

If anything, back when I was writing more about this topic, he may have been concerned with the efforts of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a Coca-Cola-funded non-profit, engaging scientists in the promotion of energy balance and exercise as the solution to obesity, thus underplaying the evidence on the impact of SSB’s. While founded in 2014, the GEBN was disbanded by the end of 2015, after a New York Times article brought attention to public health authorities’ concerns about its corporate influence. A recently published essay provides some greater insight into the company’s intentions by shedding light on some of its internal documents.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe lately he’s just been busy globally designing alcopop drinks in Japan. (My dilemma, just gave me its you’ve got to be kidding me look. No, I am not kidding.) But, whatever, he is up to something–and I don’t get it. Even though he was looking right at me, he lost me at “physical analog world” and “push work out to the market”. I know this is nothing new, but call me naive. What’s up here? Does Coca-Cola have to weasel its way into every mouth on the planet–ruining perfectly good teeth, or worsening not-so-great ones? Not to mention incurring potentially more harm. Why such deliberate cunning? Is this not loca?

A few years ago, I wrote about my dismay regarding Coca-Cola’s marketing ploy of placing common names on their labels. Interestingly, as I was delving into the Ghana campaign, I came upon a story that there was a proposed boycott of the brand in the country. I had a touch of health promotion optimism upon seeing the headline. But, apparently, the boycott was due to the fact that the names that the company had placed on the labels in Ghana, were names more predominantly found in the southern part of the country, and did not include the more common (and Muslim) names of its northern reaches. Oh, dear lord.

Well, here is my solution to that problem. Why not put only the names of the executives, such as James, on the labels? This way, consumers will know whom to contact directly should they need any assistance with their health or dental issues or geopolitical concerns.

It may be tempting to say, for god’s sake, it is just a soda! Let us just ‘experience’ that feeling of happiness, let us ‘taste the feeling’ if nothing else–is a soft drink in hard times asking too much? But unfortunately, it is far from that simple. I ponder these matters about profound insults to population health and where lies responsibility. Coca-Cola and its products are certainly not only to blame, but considering their tactics, neither are they blameless. To say they are a big player is a big understatement.

It is most obvious to look at the rapid increases in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes around the globe as indicators of our health crises influenced by our dietary behaviors. And, yes, according to the latest survey data (published just last week), here in the US, we are still getting fatter, while the food industry giants continue to fight hard against public health measures.

But, there are also other implications of the manipulations of our dietary environment by corporate interests. In recognition of this weekend’s global marches against gun violence in our society, I had wanted to explore the topic of nutritional violence, but this guy cut into the front of the line. Bully. But, I will get to that next. They may be related.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following, and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Update July 2018: In Town with Little Water, Coca-Cola is Everywhere

Related Posts: Reporting from the Rim of the Sinkhole; So-duh; Brought to Tears; Nutritional Violence


The Lives Taken Broken My Plates

My Plate Haiku

In school, I should be concerned

About my Health Class topics

Serving life not death.

by Elyn

the importance of teaching kids about nutrition

She comes flying into the room and perches herself on the chair facing me. Three minutes ago she had been minding her business sitting in class, unaware that she was one of the anointed ones. Due to her high body mass index (BMI) she was selected to come to chat with me, the visiting nutritionist.  eat-547511_640

Fearless, she presents herself ready for the challenge–with no idea what it may be. I introduce myself and tell her that I am a nutritionist. I ask her if she knows what a nutritionist is. Tentatively she says, “Someone who talks about being healthy?” I praise her response, refine it by adding the food part and tell her that most nine-year-old children don’t know what a nutritionist is. She clarifies that she is almost ten.

Now that we understand the context of our being together, I offer her a carrot. She scrunches up her nose like a rabbit. “No way”, she says. I ask when was the last time she had tried one. Apparently, it was not since she was a little kid and that was a long, long time ago. When I beg a favor and ask if she would try one for me, the terms include placing the garbage can in close proximity. Fair enough. I knew that the carrots I had brought were not the sweetest. However, the girl I had sat with just prior had enjoyed them well enough, so I ventured a try with my new guest.

One bite, one chew and into the garbage it went. “Ewww! It tastes like it came out of the ground!” In educator-fashion, I ask, “Do you know where carrots come from?” “From out of the ground,” she says, in educator-fashion, having proudly proved her point.

OK, moving onward. We discuss what she has eaten today. She is now well into our game and ready to play. For school breakfast–only an institutional plastic cup of juice. There were bagels too, but she hadn’t been hungry. For lunch–a piece of pizza–the every Friday and frequent random day of the month menu item. She only had a few bites though and mainly ate the little cup of cubed pears along with chocolate milk.

Then, as if she had been born and raised in this cramped little space we are sharing, she reaches down to the computer printer that is positioned behind her, deftly removes a piece of paper, takes a colored marker from the case I have on the desk and proceeds to draw me the piece of pizza. She indicates where she took half-mooned bites from around the edges and includes the carton of milk and pears in the picture as well.

I ask her about hunger and how and where she knows she is hungry. With a touch of condescension, she tells me she just has an instinct about when she is hungry. OK, I concede. Whatever the game, I seem to be losing.

She continues her diatribe that though she likes fruits, she does not like vegetables except for corn and lettuce. But, she eats ketchup, and as if daring me, says ketchup is made from tomatoes, so it is a vegetable. It is subtle, but I mutter some consent. She is obviously right as was Ronald Reagan on this issue. I am not about to argue– she is in full control by now. “Peas?”, I meekly ask. “Gross, like little eyeballs.” I had set myself up for that one.

And so it goes. What does she like? The usual culprits she admits–hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets, french fries, Hi-C and Kool-Aid. She drinks low-fat milk because her mom gets it on the WIC program for her younger sister. Her mom has diabetes–so she knows that food matters. I begin to ask her, that given our talk would she be interested in trying something new for herself and, before I can even finish the sentence, she says, no she will not try a new vegetable. At this point, I inform her she is killing me. “How did you know this is exactly what I was going to ask?” “I just knew.” I have now officially been schooled.

Finishing up, she says, “Can we meet next week?” Obviously, she thinks I need some serious remedial work. I tell her I won’t be back until next month, to which she sweetly replies that we can meet then. In closing, she adds that she will try to eat less of her unhealthy choices.

Though I am already completely won over, she is not done. She signs the pizza picture for me and offers it over as a truce. She wants me to see how well she writes her name and informs me that she reads above grade level. I thank her deeply, tell her she is a very amazing kid, and we agree that we both had fun.

On a growth chart, this young girl will plot out in the 98th percentile of BMI for her age. Her school will forward her measurements to the state health department and she will be counted as an obese kid. In body, she is, as my mother would have said, a little pudgy. In being, she is lively and lovely and in full possession of her priceless childhood innocence and instincts.

What my conversation with her and others teaches me, is that this area of nutrition education requires a large degree of humility. The story is not only about the weights and measures which is the current focus. And, while I don’t mean to dismiss nutrition education, what our children really need is nutrition provision. We don’t expect children to childproof their own homes–why should we be asking them to childproof their own bodies?  

Our children deserve the birthright of both health and being valued for all that they are. Attention to good quality food in the world inhabited by our kids is what is required. I wish I could submit to the state an algorithmic index similar to that which assigns one’s BMI, but that would instead measure a child’s confidence, grace, and sense of self-worth–a self-esteem index (SEI). This girl’s SEI would be very high–but it might not be for long. I hope I did not cause any damage that day and that instead, it was more of an educational experience. Maybe it is true that teaching kids about nutrition is really important. I do seem to learn something every time.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn