Recently, my daughter brought home a slip of paper given to her by the primary school that she attends. It was a ticket for a charity fund raising scheme at the school. On the top of the ticket was embazened a full colour logo of the ’sponsor’ of the event. This was a huge American doughnut company that can’t even spell correctly. The ticket invited parents to pre-order a doughnut for their child and on a certain date, on school premises, the children would buy and then eat the doughnut. That was it. That was the charity scheme.
The last time I looked at the school’s letterhead, it had a healthy schools logo on it. What does that logo actually mean? Is the school required to do anything to earn this symbol?
As everyone knows, doughnuts are full of fat and sugar, that’s why they taste nice. But fat and sugar are everywhere in processed foods which is why we have an obesity problem and presumably, why a healthy schools initiative was implemented in the first place. To promote such a junk food in a primary school flies in the face of all the government’s health education efforts. What is going on?
But it gets worse. The doughnuts are intended to be sold to the children at below the retail price to make them more attractive. If the event is intended to collect money for charity (the ticket didn’t say which charity they would be supporting, but I’m guessing it won’t be Diabetes UK) then that means that the suppliers of the doughnuts must be practically giving them away. Why would a company do such a thing? Well, it might have something to do with gaining access to impressionable young minds and being able to brand into them their full colour logo as well as addicting their bodies to their fat and sugar products.
When I looked at the doughnut makers website, under a banner headline of ‘Everyone Wins’ they explained their fundraising schemes. I was horrified to discover that they actively facilitate these fund raising charity promotions in schools and are fully tooled up to ‘help out’ on a national basis. Why is this allowed to happen? Why is nobody up in arms about it and putting a stop to it?
Presumably, this means that ANY company that has the financial muscle to heavily discount some of its products, can have access to primary schools if their deal is tempting enough for anyone associated with the school—children or parents. This, dear reader, is the thin edge of the wedge.
How long before burger companies have stalls in schools at lunchtimes? How long before pharmaceutical companies realise it might be good business for them to get children to take home specially prepared flyers promoting their drugs to the parents; “Unruly child? Can’t sleep? Try our new Comatose Tablets for your ADHD little ones and Cloud9 anti depressants for yourself. Go on, treat yourself—it’s for charity!”
How long before an entire school is sponsored by a multinational like Dow Chemicals? Presumably, all that the school has to do is tag on a charity angle and any insidious implications of the relationship are rendered null and void.
But it’s just a doughnut, it’s only a bit of a treat, isn’t it?
No, it is not. I say again, it is the thin edge of a wedge. The hacking of celebrities ‘phones was just a bit of harmless gossip at first which sold newspapers. It is only when a murdered schoolgirl’s phone is hacked that the full thickness of the wedge is revealed as it is hammered painfully into our consciousness.
This practice needs to be stopped immediately before it becomes embedded into our schools. The multinationals already have an inordinate amount of influence over our lives. How much more influence do we want to give them?
Addendum: A follow up piece to this post has been written by Dan Ladds which is a must-read.