Food and beverage companies are notoriously skilled at targeting children in their efforts to turn people into lifelong customers.
But the doughnut giant Krispy Kreme recently took that notion to offensive new heights.
In 2015, the North Carolina Children's Specialty Clinic, a pediatric outpatient facility affiliated with the University of North Carolina's Children's Hospital, was renamed the Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic in 2015.
According to UNC, the clinic isn't actually sponsored by Krispy Kreme, but named for an annual race called the Krispy Kreme Challenge, which raises money for the hospital.
Even so, slapping the name of a purveyor of high calorie sweets on a site of child wellness understandably riled up public health advocates.
"When we heard that University of North Carolina was including Krispy Kreme in the name of a children’s health clinic, we thought it was a joke. Hadn’t they heard that there’s a childhood obesity crisis?" said Margo Wootan, director for nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "The last thing we need is doctors and other health care providers undermining their own advice by plastering a doughnut brand on their medical offices."
CSPI created a petition asking the University of North Carolina to ditch the junk food reference on the clinic, and mobilized 14,000 people to sign it.
And it seemed their message got through. On May 10, Wootan announced in a statement, "Now kids can go to the NC State Park Scholars Children’s Specialty Clinic instead."
Wootan called the change at UNC "a good reminder that concerned citizens can and do make changes that can make it easier for families to eat better."
But a UNC spokesperson said it wasn't the campaign that resulted in the name change: it was a gift from another donor.
"The new name honors the generosity of the Park Scholars, who have committed to raise a total of $2 million for UNC Children's," said UNC communications representative Jennifer James. They happen to be the group that organizes the annual Krispy Kreme race. So now UNC has named the clinic for the group, not the race.
Whatever the reason for the name change, the Krispy Kreme debacle wouldn't be the first time such cognitive dissonance has been on display. Fitness events like the Olympics have long been sponsored by fast-food and soda companies that are implicated in the obesity crisis. The American Academy of Family Physicians also partnered with Coca-Cola in 2009 (and recently ended their deal).