Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation - Brand Marketing In Public Schools

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) has partnered with the Discovery Education to launch a new on-line school curriculum to promote ways to help young people achieve healthy weights. Available at, the curriculum uses a calories in, calories out approach to weight management.

This certainly sounds great. A draft of the federal government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines (to be formally released in December 2010) identified obesity as the nation's greatest public health threat.

So who is the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, and what role does Discovery Education play in the creation and dissemination of lesson plans geared toward healthy eating habits?

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation bills itself as an “Unprecedented CEO-led Partnership to Reduce Obesity.” According to its web site, its members provide funding and support for programs and activities designed to help people achieve a healthy weight. Members include ConAgra Foods, the Food Marketing Institute, General Mills and the Grocery Manufacturer's Association. Kellogg's, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, along with large supermarket companies and restaurant chains, also are members. Are these the folks we want ot learn weight management from?

Discovery Education is a subsidiary of Discovery Communications, those nice people who run the Discovery Channel and Discovery Kids on cable television. Discovery Education is basically a brand marketer. According to its web site, it claims to be a leader in digital video-based learning and it wants to bring its client's “brand and message to life in thousands of school districts nationwide.” It works with, in this case the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, to create a customized curriculum intended to bring its members' brands (Coke, Pepsi, Kraft, General Mills, industry trade groups, and some of the largest food companies and grocery chains in the world) in front of school kids everywhere – your kids, my kids, etc.

Again according to its web site, its program will disseminate brand information to tens of thousand of schools nationwide to enable these brands to “gain entry to the entire education universe.” It also leads pep rallies, PR campaigns, sweepstakes and other “excitement builders.”

Childhood obesity is a serious issue in this country. One cannot help but wonder if we want weight management taught by companies that load their foods with empty calories, high fructose corn sweeteners, excessive amounts of salts, and that serve portion sizes to children meant for Olympic athletes in training.

Should Discovery Communications be leveraging its respected name to push what are sometimes less than healthful brands in our public schools?

Something seems wrong here. What do you think?