Fast Foods & Fairy Tales

Do you believe in make-believe?

For more than a decade the food industry has been promising to police itself and do better on such critical changes as advertising less to child. Until recently, they have failed pretty consistently in that regard. In fact, over those years studies suggest massive INCREASES in these kinds of marketing approach. One study even found that children preferred candy over broccoli – at least until they were told that broccoli was part of McDonald’s packaging for kids!

Anyway, there seems to be a movement toward something approaching “real” change. Below is a link to a collaborative effort from the National Restaurant Association called Kids LiveWell, involving some 19 of the nation’s large restaurant/food chains, covering about 15,000 food outlets. Each of these has committed to decreasing the unhealthy food they serve young people. The rest of us, adults and such, well, that’s a different story. And many other big chains (such as KFC, Carl’s Junior, McD’s, etc.) have their own dreamy visions, which suggest that they really aren’t ready to play well with others in their own industry family. (See below for a list of the participating restaurants and the link to an article on the topic.)

Notice, however, that McDonald’s is not among the participants. Even though they have undertaken some changes of their own. It seems that they have their own view of what they do to entice young people into the land were a few calories less is a tale worth telling.



Here’s the list of the 19 restaurant chains participating in the Kids LiveWell program:

  • Au Bon Pain
  • Bonefish Grill
  • Burger King
  • Burgerville
  • Carrabba’s Italian Grill
  • Chevys Fresh Mex
  • Chili’s Grill & Bar
  • Corner Bakery Café
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Denny’s
  • El Polla Loco
  • Friendly’s
  • IHOP
  • Joe’s Crab Shack
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Silver Diner
  • Sizzler
  • T-Bones Great American Eatery
  • Zpizza

Go to for more info. on the project from the NRA. Otherwise, here is the link to a more complete article where this list was presented:’%20workouts,%20healthy%20fast%20food,%20back-to-school%20savings,%20pet%20allergies,%20safer%20sunwear


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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


Super Bees? Fast Company starts a bad buzz

I’m surprised that a good publication like Fast Company sees the challenges confronting the bees of the world as an invitation to inspire the re-engineering of nature. There is so much that we don’t know about nature’s sweet and even some of its savory resources that we must explore before we turn to instinctively simple STEM reactivity. Food empowerment efforts would give voice to much better choices and is at least a part of what the nickel-a-meal initiative is all about – inspiring better choices and funding the means for making those options viable. It would be better if these options were better explored before trying to balance out all sides of a false dichotomy.

BAD BUZZ, Fast Company!

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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


USDA Affirms Nickels Against Change

It’s nice when the government’s investigations find positive, statistically significant impacts. Small changes bring about small but well directed results. Which is the case for the current USDA study on The Effect of Food and Beverage Prices on Children’s Weight (June 2011, Minh Wendt and Jessica E. Todd). Meaning that a few nickels and dimes more or less for good or bad food bring about identifiable changes in the body mass index of younger children. Put another way: raise the price of bad foods or lower the price of good foods and maybe, just maybe there will eventually be a subsequent corresponding impact on how fat the kids get.

Nickels and dimes might just make a difference.

So big does the leap have to be to presuming that change can also occur for an entire food sector by adding nickels and dimes to build a better food service? Does raising the cost of a burger by way of inspiring compliance with giving a nickel because it’s the cool thing to do bring about the same statistically significant results?

We believe it will in fact amplify the impact – to the point where more and more people will want to be collaboratively involved and will reinforce the positive changes that result no matter which way the provider does what the USDA is suggesting – if the cost of good foods goes down or the cost of bad foods goes up.

While it’s not the easiest of studies to read – what with all the charts and pesky facts – the USDA study is encouraging. And it reinforces what other studies have demonstrated, even if those studies also suggest their own little tastes of change. Theirs is a finding worth noting. (Now, of course, with a few nickels and dimes from investors, we might just get to see whether there really is a monetary impact on this kind of change.)

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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Facts & Studies


Fatter Kids Walk to School!


As discussed in the paper, we find a larger impact of the top 10 fast-food chains than for the broader definition of fast-foods.  To conserve space, we show estimates for the broad definition excluding ice cream, donuts, and coffee shops, and for the top 10 chains.

The Effect of Fast Food On Obesity: 5% association with fatter kids (who live and walk to school?)

The Effect of Fast Food On Obesity, a paper put together by social scientists associated with the University of California, Berkeley, presented this opening abstract. Not really much need to read the rest of the paper, assuming you can, to understand the technical elements. The numbers are pretty clear; the conclusions as represented.

Now what is the reason again that we don’t do something to use the physical power of this phenomenon for a movement for good?

Passing a few nickels and dimes through the money system of the fast food sector (excluding some of the best flavored versions, of course) would have likely no impact on their bottom line. Yet it could well do much for what the rest of us want to do as we seek to empower our locality to influence the food that we eat and that is near to the ones we consider dear.

Here is the opening abstract for your digestion. The full article is viewable at

Abstract. We investigate the health consequences of changes in the supply of fast food using the exact geographical location of fast food restaurants.  Specifically, we ask how the supply of fast food affects the obesity rates of 3 million school children and the weight gain of over 1 million pregnant women.  We find that among 9th grade children, a fast food restaurant within a tenth of a mile of a school is associated with at least a 5.2 percent increase in obesity rates. There is no discernable effect at .25 miles and at .5 miles. Among pregnant women, models with mother fixed effects indicate that a fast food restaurant within a half mile of her residence results in a 2.5 percent increase in the probability of gaining over 20 kilos. The effect is larger, but less precisely estimated at .1 miles. In contrast, the presence of non-fast food restaurants is uncorrelated with obesity and weight gain. Moreover, proximity to future fast food restaurants is uncorrelated with current obesity and weight gain, conditional on current proximity to fast food. The implied effects of fast-food on caloric intake are at least one order of magnitude smaller for mothers, which suggests that they are less constrained by travel costs than school children. Our results imply that policies restricting access to fast food near schools could have significant effects on obesity among school children, but similar policies restricting the availability of fast food in residential areas are unlikely to have large effects on adults.  


Gaming on Possibilities

Recently heard from a remarkable gaming and technology company about their possible interest in a different food empowerment project, our Green Gold initiative for empowering local food entrepreneurs who love honeys and cheeses. Can’t wait to hear if they are willing to talk. If so, you can be assured they will hear about a few nickels for change as well. Cross whatever it is you cross for luck!

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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Helping Jamie Oliver with Small Change

I applied for a job with Jamie Oliver through his foundation. I really couldn’t find another to speak at him, other than by sending in a recipe or buying some of his many commercial products. The man is, without question, a marketing machine.

Who can blame him? Money is the name of the food game; completely, absolutely, and some would say necessarily so. Though Brazil’s hunt for Zero Hunger suggests otherwise.

But I digress. I sent in a job application for some special events position because they give you room for a couple of paragraphs to talk about important issues – which I presume means to put your personal face forward.

I put the face of the Nickel-a-Meal Campaign forward. And I actually didn’t get blocked or anything; I got a personal response.

Not a good one, of course. Seems he’s busy, can’t possibly consider every idea that comes through, and does have some nice projects in the works. Mostly in Europe. Which I suspect may be related to the way Los Angeles treated him.

But that’s not fair to say yet. We’ve only seen two episodes of the 2011 season. And those editors do have a way of deceiving us.

I really don’t have much hope to jump to the top yet, but I find it interesting that, even with good corporate sponsorship, he is constantly in need for more resources. He can do the little things he needs and I know he’s not hurting for basic operating money. To get the big players to notice, however, those amounts aren’t going to work.

Jamie couldn’t even give the local burger guy in LA double what he makes in two weeks to use that guys site to come up with healthy food. The proprietor thinks it will hurt his reputation if the other restaurant boys and girls he plays will see him in the playground with healthy food.

The only way to address this is by having large numbers of people taking the same tactics with the power of a continuous flow of IMPACTFUL INVESTMENT dollars? Which will not materialize unless those who want a return on their investment see that a steady flow of earned income is possible.

Stew this, folks, and see if you agree with me about what Jamie’s problem is. Lots and lots and lots of nickels and dimes. I found it funny when Jamie did his homework and brought down the cost of the meat for his healthier burger to just a few cents more than the regular guy paid. Those few cents still made a difference – which is, of course, the very point of my thinking about change.

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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Helping Jamie, Our Opinion


Empowering Change

Welcome to our space for the beginning of the Nickel-a-Meal Campaign Against Obesity. We hope you will add to the fun and stay connected. This initiative has many options for making a measurable impact on the nation’s dietary concerns, and we want everyone to be involved. Constructive commentary are always most appreciated.


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Posted by on April 13, 2011 in Uncategorized