Paging Dr. Donut to the Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic at the University of North Carolina.
Universities have made some boneheaded choices when it comes to selling property naming rights. The University of New Mexico has the WisePies Pizza and Salad basketball arena and Florida Atlantic University cut a stadium deal with an operator of prisons and detention centers (later rescinded when students protested its corporate history of corruption and human rights violations). Then there are the bathrooms. For the smalltime philanthropist, or just a donor with a sense of humor, these too are up for grabs. You can find individually named stalls at Dixie State College of Utah; a named men’s room at Harvard Law School; and library urinals at the University of Pennsylvania complete with plaques that read “The relief you are now experiencing is made possible by a gift from Michael Zinman.”
The renaming of UNC’s Children’s Specialty Clinic is distinctly different.
It’s not like slapping a corporate name on a stadium. This mashup of children’s healthcare and sugary deep-fried pastries arrives in the midst of an epidemic of pediatric metabolic syndrome, and it does so in North Carolina, ranked 5th worst in the US for childhood obesity. The university drew immediate flak from doctors and nutritionists, beginning with members of UNC’s own faculty:
Shame on my colleagues for not finding a way to accept funds without providing free advertisement for junk food. What is interesting about this is if we named this the Winston-Salem [cigarette] clinic, it would outrage America and maybe even the same for the Coca-Cola Clinic, but Krispy Kremes are equally horrible for our health — they are high sugar, high fat, refined carbohydrate junk food primed to add to the child obesity problem plaguing North Carolina.
—Barry Popkin, MD, W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor/Director, UNC Chapel Hill’s Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity
The clinic responded to the criticism by explaining that it isn’t named for the Krispy Kreme Corporation, or even the sugary treat, but that it’s an homage to a non-profit organization that holds an annual foot race raising money for sick children that just happens to have the trademarked name in the race title. The eponymous Krispy Kreme Challenge is a grotesquely ludicrous feat of athleticism that bills itself as a “test of physical fitness and gastrointestinal fortitude”—the first to run five miles with a midpoint snack of a dozen donuts is the winner. So they say.
The public health advocates at the Center for Science in the Public Interest are circulating a petition on Change.org calling out the university for its flagrant hypocrisy and conflict of interest and urging UNC not put the Krispy Kreme name on its children’s clinic.
The petition appeals directly to the administrators and faculty leadership of the health facility:
…you undoubtedly see firsthand the impact of poor diet on children’s health on a daily basis. Putting a doughnut brand on a medical institution that serves children undermines your organization’s credibility, parents’ efforts to facilitate healthy eating by their kids, and children’s health.
Food marketing affects children’s food choices, their diets, and health, resulting in long-term health impacts. Kids don’t need encouragement to eat sweets—particularly from their healthcare providers.
Please act now to ensure that the children’s clinic is not sullied by the Krispy Kreme name.
The CSPI petition is just a thousand or so signers shy of its goal. Help put it over the top by adding your name at Change.org.
There’s got to be a better way to honor the generosity and good work of a North Carolina nonprofit without sending such an inappropriate message to children.