The KFC Diabetes Campaign and Other Misguided Charitable Donations

The KFC Diabetes Campaign and Other Misguided Charitable Donations

Image courtesy of Chris1051 via Flickr

If you’ve been looking for a way to support diabetes research in the most ironic way possible, a KFC location in Utah has just the ticket. When you purchase KFC’s Mega Jug of soda, they’ll donate $1 to diabetes research. Assuming you don’t get a diet soda, the half-gallon beverage contains an estimated 800 calories and 56 teaspoons of sugar.

Not surprisingly, the campaign has drawn a lot of criticism. A spokesman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the organization benefiting from the KFC campaign, pointed out that Type 1 diabetes–which is what the JDRF researches–is not linked to diet or obesity. Fair enough, but I’m not sure that gives KFC carte blanche to contribute to the alarming rates of Type 2 diabetes in the United States. As many bloggers have pointed out, why couldn’t KFC have tied their diabetes campaign to a healthier food product?

Here are four other examples of well-intentioned but poorly thought-out charity campaigns.

1. Keep a Child Alive’s Celebrity “Deaths”

In 2010, various celebrities participated in a campaign called Digital Life Sacrifice to raise money for Keep a Child Alive, Alicia Keys’ charity. The celebrities pledged to sign off of all social media accounts on World AIDS Day, December 1st. They would remain signed off until donations to Keep a Child Alive reached $1 million. This campaign would have been perfectly lovely if not for its constant comparison of dying to staying off of Twitter and Facebook for a day. Celebrities made “last tweet and testament” videos, and shot ads in which they lay in coffins to symbolize their “digital death.” As someone who lost a loved one to AIDS, I find this campy, “lol-not-tweeting-is-death” approach pretty tasteless. I can only imagine how I’d feel if I lived in a country where HIV was a much greater epidemic.

2. Botox’s “My Expressions of Kindness”

In 2010, Botox launched their “My Expressions of Kindness” campaign, which asked Botox enthusiasts to create a profile on the company’s site and post about acts of kindness they’d performed. For each post, Botox would donate up to $250,000 to one of several charities. This is by the least offensive campaign on this list, but I can’t help snickering at the company’s decision to include the phrase “expression” in the project’s title. As some bloggers pointed out, it’s a pretty laughable choice for a company known for freezing people’s faces into, well, expressionless-ness.

3. PETA’S “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur”

I’ve written about PETA’s exploitative campaigns before, and so has most of the Internet. PETA receives much-deserved flak for pretty much every one of their desperately attention-seeking crusades, perhaps most famously the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign. The campaign features billboards, magazine spreads, and various other photos almost-nude photos of celebrities, sporting the text “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” or similar slogans. Many people argue that the link between fur trade and nudity is tenuous at best, but PETA stands by their ends-justify-the-means tactics, arguing that “sex sells.” Such nuance!

4. KFC’s “Buckets for the Cure”

Okay, maybe it’s not fair to go after them twice in one post, but leaving out KFC’s breast cancer research campaign would have been a glaring omission. For every pink bucket of chicken purchased, the company would donate 50 cents to Susan G. Komen for The Cure, a prominent breast cancer research foundation. The problem is that fried foods have been linked to cancer, which makes the whole campaign sort of self-defeating.  True, the buckets could be filled with grilled chicken instead, but KFC’s grilled chicken is still not the healthiest choice. Buckets for the Cure drew criticism for “pinkwashing,” the practice of “putting a pink cancer-awareness ribbon on products that are bad for health.”

What are some other ironic or otherwise ill-conceived charity campaigns you’ve heard of? Let me know in the comments.

There are 17 comments for this article
  1. ChuckG at 11:57 pm

    It’s difficult to diss Coka-Cola when they give so much back to charity, but then again their drinks aren’t healthy for the body.

  2. realtown at 1:12 pm

    As the parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes, I wan to thank ‘Dealtown’ and everyone else out there who has piled on the KFC franchisee in Utah for having the audacity to try to help a worthy cause.

    I further want to thank you, ‘Dealtown’ for helping to perpetuate the myth that a child of 4 who was perfectly height and weight proportionate was somehow ‘asking for it’ when she contracted diabetes because, after all, it would be too damn hard for ‘Dealtown’ to learn the difference between Type 1 and Type 2. … I mean, all those numbers to keep track of!!!!

    Ahhhhh… ignorance is blogs.

  3. stella.louise at 3:34 pm

    Dear realtown,

    Not exactly sure what your ire is about. The writer did distinguish between type 1 and type 2 (which often but not always can be the result of poor lifestyle choices…) and nowhere was it insinuated that ANYONE who contracts the disease was “asking for it.”

    As someone with type 1 diabetes myself, I don’t understand why a brief description of the campaign and the public’s reaction to it would be so troubling (unless of course you are somehow associated with KFC or the campaign…).

  4. Allegra.Ringo at 8:52 pm

    Hi Realtown, I’d like to second what Stella said. In the second paragraph, I noted the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. My point was that even though Type 1 diabetes isn’t linked to obesity or diet, it’s still not a good idea to launch a campaign which could potentially contribute to ANOTHER disease (being Type 2 diabetes).

    I never implied that anyone was “asking for it,” and furthermore, I take issue with the insinuation that people with Type 2 ARE “asking for it.” There’s no need to point out that your child is “perfectly height and weight proportionate” – s/he would never have been “asking for it” no matter his/her weight or height.

  5. realtown at 12:18 am

    Sorry, Dealtown, you don’t get out of jail free with a passing reference to ‘JDRF spokespeople said.’ You and others in the boobosphere have been tarring this fundraiser with the ‘sugar is evil’ brush since it first was reported a few weeks ago (and boy are YOU ever late to the game, lol). The problem when people in their infinite Internet ignorance say ‘Diabetes equals eating/drinking too much sugar’ is that it absolutely DOES perpetuate a misperception that people that Type 1 brought it on themselves – and that they can somehow ‘control’ it with diet. NEITHER of those things are true, which Stella (if she really is Type 1) can attest to. It is in fact damn troubling anytime people with Type 1 (an autoimmune disease) are lumped in with people with Type 2 (almost always the result of poor nutrition choices). But, hey, go on making your cutesy little blog jokes about things you just don’t get. It’s what the ‘net is for.

  6. pmiller at 1:08 am

    @realtown There’s no reason to be uncivil. We should be able to disagree without resorting to childish name-calling.

  7. stella.louise at 6:14 am

    @realtown: I REALLY have type 1 diabetes. It’s a drag. But nowhere has anyone said that it was caused by eating/drinking too much sugar. Type 2 diabetes–which is far more common than type 1–has reached epidemic proportions in the US and worldwide. And it’s a fact that poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight contributions to the prevalence of the disease. It’s also a fact that many people with type 2 diabetes can reverse the condition by eating a healthier dieting, exercising and losing excess weight. I agree that there are a lot of misconceptions about the disease–from people not understanding the differences between type 1 and type 2, to not understanding that diabetes doesn’t equal “allergy to sugar, etc. but none of those misconceptions were perpetuated in this post. (“A spokesman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the organization benefiting from the KFC campaign, pointed out that Type 1 diabetes–which is what the JDRF researches–is not linked

  8. realtown at 12:43 pm

    “06/30/2011 5:35 PM ET
    A’s Raised Over $29,000 at Today’s MUG Root Beer Float Day
    Proceeds Benefit The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
    OAKLAND, Calif. -The Oakland Athletics raised over $29,000 at today’s 12th Annual A’s MUG Root Beer Float Day with all proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Since 2003, the A’s have raised over $329,000 for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through MUG Root Beer Float Day.
    A’s players, coaches and broadcasters, along with Bay Area radio and television personalities and local newspaper reporters served MUG Root Beer and Orange Crush floats in the Eastside Club this morning. Proceeds were raised through the sale of floats, tips given in exchange for autographs and pictures with the celebrity scoopers, the sale of autographed mugs and a silent auction of sports memorabilia.
    MUG Root Beer Float Day is sponsored by Pepsi. The ice cream for the event is donated by Dreyer’s.”

    Darn those greedy corporations and baseball teams

  9. realtown at 1:20 pm

    Yes, Stella. This sort of thing absolutely does perpetuate the misconception that there is a link between diet and Type 1 causation. It’s very simple. If you understand that sugar intake is not related to the development of Type 1, where is the irony (or ‘misguidedness’) in the KFC fund-raiser?? If, on the other hand, you labor under the delusion that too much sugar ’causes’ Type 1, the Utah fund-raiser is hilarious. THAT’s why I’m sick of my Google alert for JDRF pointing me toward silly bloggers and Onion-wannabes who have been pillorying this guy in Utah for weeks. Sorry if that makes me ‘uncivil,’ but I think it’s far more uncivil to get your jollies at the expense of an incurable disease and those trying to do something about it.

  10. stella.louise at 4:33 pm

    @realtown: Again the issue isn’t with this post which did point out the irony of raising fund to fight a disease with a product that can contribute to disease. If it had been a fund raiser for breast cancer it still would have sent mixed messages. What if a dollar had been donated for every pack of Camel cigarettes sold? Smoking doesn’t cause type 1 diabetes but you can’t agree that associating an unhealthy product with fighting a disease isn’t completely ludicrous. Your real issue is the confusion between type 1 and type 2–which is an issue JDRF could work to address. The very term “juvenile” is misleading because, although the overwhelming majority of cases are diagnosed when patients are young, type 1 occurs in older people as well. I should know as I was diagnosed a little over five years ago and I’m nowhere close to being a “juvenile.” 😉 Even medical professional who specialize in treating diabetes are confused labeling type 1 diagnosed at a later age as “LADA” or type 1

  11. realtown at 4:50 pm

    Clearly, clear thinking and logic is wasted here in the boobosphere, but then again, I knew that before I started. … But let me say one more thing before I go: I don’t give a damn about the so-called ‘Type 2 epidemic.’ And I have a brother, a mother-in-law and several relatives who deal with that ailment. Hell, I might contract it myself if I make bad choices. But that’s just it: Type 2 is about CHOICES. And ANYthing that serves to add to the misunderstanding that Type 1 and Type 2 have the same causation (like calling a JDRF fund-raiser ‘misguided’) is offensive.

  12. margotdent at 5:50 pm

    Is the “boobosphere” part of the “lamestream media”?

    I, for one, enjoyed the article (and the irony therein.)

    Those PETA campaigns are inFURiating!

  13. TheColonel at 6:09 pm

    @realtown, thank you for your continued work here at Kentucky Fried Chicken! Your check is in the mail. As always, we appreciate your unrelenting support of our finger-lickin’ diabetes awareness cause. Keep on fighting for me, the Colonel, and remember: nobody does it like KFC!

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