Kellogg’s Dual Persona

[children dancing in front of Kellogg logo]

Childhood Obesity News has been reflecting on the two aspects of Kellogg. Although legally they are separate entities, on a meta-level the different parts of Kellogg form a huge mythical being. With one hand, the giant collects money from people who like to eat over-sweetened processed foods with dubious nutritional content.

The giant puts the income in his pocket, then transfers some of it to a pocket (known as the Kellogg Trust) on the other side of his jacket, and from there moves it to another pocket known as the Kellogg Foundation. From that pocket, he hands out contributions to help the kids who got fat eating the over-sweetened, nutritionally void products.

In the minds of many people, this process seems righteous and perfectly justifiable. Somebody needs to pay for the consequences, so why should it not be the corporation that sells so much undernourishing pseudo-food? Others have trouble wrapping their heads around it, because it just seems somehow perverse. Despite all the good done by the Kellogg Foundation, the inescapable fact that its operating budget comes from the Kellogg Company kind of spoils things.

Can kids cope?

How much personal responsibility is it realistic to expect from children? Not much. So many kids have been successfully converted into fast food addicts that when the nutrition level of school lunches was raised, cafeteria workers across the country watched in dismay as kids pitched their nourishing lunches into the trash. Kids won’t go as far as the lab rats in a famous study who let themselves starve rather than return to a healthy diet. But they will let themselves become malnourished and obese.

In 2009-2010, HealthCorps received $95,000 from the Kellogg Foundation. This organization, headed by Dr. Mehmet Oz, “addresses the crisis of obesity in America through school-based peer mentoring, as well as community events and outreach to underserved populations.” The HealthCorps press release goes on to say it was founded “to revolutionize America’s concept of health by prioritizing prevention and personal responsibility.” HealthCorps is also connected with the dance exercise program Zumba, of which Dr. Oz has said, “We both share the goal to get people of all ages moving to enhance their physical and mental health.”

Mens sana in corpore sano” is one of the oldest self-help slogans in the world, dating back to before the invention of bumper stickers. A healthy mind in a healthy body — what’s not to like? The connection extends at least a decade into the past, as seen in this 2003 video clip titled “Zumba Kelloggs Promotion,” where cute kids boogie to the beat on a set decorated with big curly “K”s.

Dr. Jennifer Harris is Director of Marketing Initiatives at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University. Psychology is her area of expertise, and she says:

The way that companies market to children online is really very sneaky. Advertising is most effective when people don’t think of it as advertising, when they’re thinking of the game they’re playing. Then they won’t activate their defenses and the advertising will be more effective.

Harris was talking about “advergames” in general, but the indoctrination must be particularly strong for the Zumba kids, who engage not only their minds but their bodies in the openness and flow of exuberant exercise, all the while absorbing an overdose of advertising. And because they’re having so much fun, it seems unkind to begrudge it to them!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Zumba(R) Fitness to Host First-Ever Zumba Instructor Convention,” Reuters.com, 10/20/08
Source: “Zumba Kelloggs Promotion,” 2003
Source: “Food companies play games with children’s TV advertising ban,” Telegraph.co.uk, 06/12/14
Image by Kellogg

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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