The180

Should health foundations use fast food to fundraise?

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff doesn't think health charities should partner with companies that make fattening, sugary foods. He tells Jim Brown it sends the wrong message.
(Julie Van Rosendaal )
Listen11:07

According to a recent Facebook post from the Canadian Cancer Society, you can help fulfill your new year's resolutions to eat more veggies, and contribute to charity, all by ordering a pizza. Over the holidays, the society's Ontario Division partnered with Domino's Pizza to raise money for its work. But Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says the campaign—and others like it—make no sense. 

Dr. Freedhoff, a family physician with a focus on obesity issues, calls these campaigns "fast food fundraising," and says they send a bad message. He says fast food consumption and obesity are the "new normal" in our society, and health institutions should not be adding to the problem, even if it is for a good cause. 

But Rowena Pinto disagrees. She's the Vice President of Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives with the Canadian Cancer Society's Ontario Division, and she says she's proud of their relationship with Domino's: "We actually raised $35,000 which will be going directly towards our Wheels of Hope program, that transports cancer patients to their treatment."

I really don't think we should be providing further permission and encouragement for a behaviour that is contributing to the problem. With the Canadian Cancer Society, they know this, diet and weight are both very tightly linked to the development of cancers.​- Dr. Yoni Freedhoff

Pinto says the society has strict guidelines about who they choose to partner with. They will not work with companies that produce things with a direct link to cancer—like cigarettes, or tanning booths. But when it comes to pizza, or other junk food, Pinto says there's no problem. 

We cannot make ourselves irrelevant by not engaging with anything that potentially could be, if consumed at certain levels, unhealthy....We have to go where people are. People eat pizza. - Rowena Pinto

She says research shows it's better to teach people how to make their favourite foods healthier than to tell them to avoid said foods—and that's why the Domino's campaign encouraged consumers to eat healthier versions of pizza, by adding vegetables. By fund raising with popular products like fast food, Pinto says, the Canadian Cancer Society can raise all the resources it needs for its many programs: "We had more to gain from this relationship than anything else."