April 30th, 2012
Can a Formula Company Really Promote Breast-Feeding and Fight Child Obesity?
By Bonnie Rochman
Newark’s Corey Booker is a darling among U.S. mayors. He made headlines in 2010 when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to his New Jersey city’s struggling school system because Booker had impressed him. Earlier this month, Booker dashed into a burning building to save a neighbor. But the mayor’s on the outs now with breast-feeding advocates, who are none too pleased with a recently announced partnership between Newark and the Nestle Corporation to tackle childhood obesity.
On its face, the project sounds great: a global food powerhouse giving a struggling city’s grassroots municipal group, Newark Now, $100,000 to decrease the community’s outsize rate of childhood obesity — 27% among children ages 3 to 5, compared to 10% nationally.
“I am so excited to announce that Nestle is becoming our newest supporter of ‘Let’s Move! Newark,’” Booker said in a press release announcing the partnership, which is a pilot program for Nestle. “Through this new initiative, Nestle and Newark Now will empower our city’s grandparents, parents and caregivers on how they can improve the nutrition of their young children by promoting small dietary changes and healthy activity.”
But lactation experts are calling foul, concerned that Nestle — a major manufacturer of Gerber-brand infant formula — will surreptitiously promote its own product rather than championing breast-feeding, which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Surgeon General for all babies.