Slow Food Grant from Kellogg’s: Is it Ethical?

Slow Food USA just announced that it received a $1.2 million grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grant is the single largest grant Slow Food USA has ever received, but its funding source makes me question the integrity of the opportunity.

According to Slow Food USA’s news release, “The three-year, capacity building grant will help Slow Food work to address inequities in the food system by raising awareness internally and externally, building relationships with diverse communities and establishing partnerships with organizations in this area of work. The grant will also fund the development of a public initiative that embraces the values of Slow Food and its history through celebrating, reclaiming and creating local food cultures.”

Slow Food values of good, clean and fair food are highlighted in this plan for the capacity building grant, but it is unclear how this aligns with the values put forth by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and the organization behind the foundation, Kellogg’s.

The WKKF has five focus areas: educated kids, healthy kids, secure families, racial equity, and civic engagement.

Linda Jo Doctor, program officer at WKKF said, “We’re confident that Slow Food’s extensive network will help more children and families get the good food they need to thrive.” Recently, efforts such as the $5 Challenge and Time for Lunch do increase family access to food, but whole, natural and locally sourced foods are the priority, not processed foods.

However, the Kellogg Corporation undoubtedly hopes that the publicity from this grant will boost sales for Kellogg’s products including Eggo’s, Frosted Flakes and Pop-Tarts. All of these products are targeted at children, contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic, and should be labeled “junk food,” an obvious enemy to the Slow Food movement.

Kellogg’s is undoubtedly an enemy to the slow food movement as well. If national headquarters doesn’t see the corporation that way, then I think we need to reevaluate how we define the Slow Food movement.

The grant can simply be categorized for the foundation as a corporate social responsibility requirement. By handing money to organizations like Slow Food USA, Kellogg’s gets a tax break and a boost in public image. The corporation has no plans of changing products or company values, no matter how many food organizations it chooses to support.

You may be familiar with the term, “greenwashing,” and this grant from Kellogg’s to Slow Food may be the beginning of another type of spin. Greenwashing began as the environmental and sustainability movements gained speed. Corporations with reputations for environmentally unfriendly business practices began donating to organizations that focused on sustainability, and this is no different.

It would be one thing if WKKF were donating to a hunger relief organization, but Slow Food focuses on making locally sourced and unprocessed food available to all people in all communities.

Most Kellog’s products are altered and contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While does Kellogg’s owns four organic brands: Bear Naked, Kashi, Gardenburger and Morningstar, the brands do not rate well against other organic brands. Bear Naked is not certified organic. Kashi only has four of 24 cereal products that are certified organic. Both Morningstar and Gardenburger brands are likely hexane-extracted and contain many nonorganic ingredients. You can see more about the cereal brand ratings here and the meat alternative brand ratings here.

Slow Food USA gets to expand its program to focus on good, clean and fair food while Kellogg’s gets to expand its market for unhealthy, processed and unjust food. The two organizations are fighting for two very different causes, and this is not a valid partnership.

Editorial piece by Communications Director Whitney Taylor. The opinion column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Slow Food: University of Oregon or the organization in general. 

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