Wednesday, June 6, 2012

AND Done

Photo Courtesy of EatRight.org
Photo Courtesy of Coca-Cola.com





This time of year creates some angst in my life. It around this time of year that I get my renewal notice for my membership to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). For the past few years I have really struggled with whether or not I should renew my membership. I have written about my issues with AND here but to put it succinctly, I do not like the fact that AND partners with organizations like Coca-Cola, Hershey's, Mars Inc., General Mills and Kellogg's. I think that it sends the wrong message about our organization as a whole--whose primary goal is to promote good nutrition--while taking money from companies whose products are mostly thought of as not healthy.

 This year I have decided I will no longer be a member of the Academy. What happened this year to change my mind? Two things.

First, I found out that the Academy's new President, Ethan Bergman will be carrying the Olympic torch in England this year. That seems innocent, right? Then I found out that Mr. Bergman received the honor of being a torch bearer because he was selected by Coca-Cola (a major Olympic sponsor). What message does it send when our professional organization President does something as public as carrying the Olympic torch because Coke sponsored him? To me, it paints a picture that the two organizations have a pretty close relationship.

The second thing that finally tipped me over the edge was the Academy's press release after Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of large sugary beverages (soda) in New York City. In case you don't know the original story you can read it here. The proposed ban has sparked a lot of debate on the role of government in regulating our diet and the impact if sugary beverages on obesity. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released a statement on the ban. In brief they said,
"The Academy supports strategies designed to encourage people to make healthful food choices," said registered dietitian and Academy President Sylvia Escott-Stump. "To date, most bans and taxations like the New York proposal are based on theoretical models. There is conflicting research on whether these programs actually result in behavior change that leads to positive health outcomes." Escott-Stump added: "As a science-based organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics believes there must be an evaluation component to these programs. We need to measure behavior changes across the population as a result of the program. Then, we can determine if the changes are long-term and whether they contribute to a reduction of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes." 
 This release is so "blah" and without opinion that I was blown away! Why not take a stand on the topic either way instead of such a wishy-washy, wait-and-see attitude?  At least join the debate! Did AND hold back because their major corporate sponsor is Coca-Cola? Is AND holding their tongue because they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them? It sure seems that way to me.

There are a number of dietitians that feel like I do and according to this article,  61% of dietitians who are members of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition (HEN) dietetic practice group (DPG) opposed AND's corporate sponsorship.

After much thought and discussion with colleagues whose opinion I value, I decided to vote with my pocket book.  I am not renewing my membership because I do not support the Academy's position on corporate sponsorship.  AND has many things to offer RDs but I choose to not participate until they change their stance on this issue.

I know that some of you will disagree with this opinion and I welcome your comments.  It is discussion and debate that is needed on this topic.  I am taking a stand...will you?

7 comments:

  1. Ritamarie LittleJune 6, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    We need to go to lunch. : )

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  2. Well said Aaron! It almost never fails that AND would give such a poor response and once again is an embarrassment to our profession. How can an organization represent me when the organization itself provides obscure answers to hot topics? This would be a perfect time for AND to take a stance and make our name well-known.

    I haven't renewed my subscription yet...I am only considering it because, in terms of public policy, AND actually does make some efforts in working with Congress to pass bills/laws.

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  3. Would it make a difference if it was Daisani Water sponsoring FNCE? If AND's president got to carry the Olympic torch because Minute Maid orange juice was sponsoring the Olympics? If it was a Vitamin Water or Aquabona mineral water booth at FNCE? All of these are Coca Cola brands. Coca Cola has 3500 different beverages world-wide including water, mineral water, fruit juices, sports beverages and sodas.

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    Replies
    1. It's not water or juice the is associated with Coca Cola it's Coke. It's all about selling sugar water, that's it.

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  4. You bring up a great point Leah. In my opinion, no it does not make a difference. Although they are all different brands with different messages they are all owned by a large soda company. My issue is not with the brand but with the corporate sponsorship in general.

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  5. Hi Aaron,
    I, too, did not join ADA (AND, whatever)after continuous membership for 34 years, plus holding state offices, being the legislative coordinator, etc. My main reason is that they do not adequately represent me. Where I live, everybody and his brother with a worthless certificate can call himself a "nutritionist" and ADA doesn't make a peep. Their association with big food companies makes matters worse. (BTW: I supported Mayor Bloomberg's soda in print and on TV speaking as an RD.)
    Mary

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  6. Thanks for the feedback Mary. I think there are more RDs that feel the same way so hopefully AND will listen to our concerns and make a change.

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