The sponsors of the School Nutrition Association’s 2013 annual conference included PepsiCo, Domino’s Pizza, and Sara Lee. SNA made headlines recently when it asked Congress to lift the rule that students must take fruits and vegetables on the lunch line, and to ease the rules around sodium and whole grains.
Marion Nestle, a New York University nutritionist, wrote about nutritionists and corporate sponsorships in her 2007 book, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. “I worry a lot about food industry co-optation of my profession,” she wrote to me in an email. “Food companies are smart. They know that if they can make friends and help inform dietitians and nutritionists that the people they are supporting or helping will be reluctant to suggest eating less of their products.”
Andy Bellatti, a dietitian and member of AND, recalls his shock the first time he attended the organization’s national conference, in 2008. “I could get continuing education credits for literally sitting in a room and listening to Frito-Lay tell me that Sun Chips are a good way to meet my fiber needs,” he says. “I thought, ‘No wonder Americans are overweight and diabetic. The gatekeepers for our information about food are getting their information from junk-food companies.'”