FROM THE EDITOR: June 2007
Time For Advocacy
By Cam Wood
Next month we will visit, in depth, the advocacy campaign launched by CAMA at the Vancouver Expo in May.
Time For Advocacy
Next month we will visit, in depth, the advocacy campaign launched by CAMA at the Vancouver Expo in May. It’s an exciting venture – long overdue in my opinion – that will set the wheels in motion to demonstrate vending is a legitimate industry, not a societal evil bent on making kids fat.
As we know, in vending, most kids with weight issues can’t honestly point the finger at an inanimate object like a snack vender … the blame clearly lies with government inaction, parental irresponsibility and a mainstream media driven by ad revenues over nutritional value.
If a 10-year-old has a spare tire around their waist thanks to calorie-rich snacks from the vending machine, who gave them the $1 to spend in the first place? Was it the route drivers? The operators? How about our suppliers and manufacturers?
No, once again the responsibility lay with someone else.
Society and special interest groups want to paint the product and the distribution channel as the guilty party. Targeting our equipment, and the grandiose gesture of banning machines from schools is a scapegoat manner of addressing the issue.
Four years ago, we took then Ontario education minister Gerrard Kennedy to task for his peacock-like posing over the removal of soft drinks from the province’s elementary schools. His argument for it was puffed out like the dazzling feather fan of the male bird in a courtship dance. But at the heart of the matter, it was nothing more than a neatly packaged pantomime for the newspapers and television stations – because a huge majority of elementary schools didn’t have soft drink vending machines.
It was an easy message to send out – the general public bought it, and vending was vilified.
My, wasn’t the hen (re: mainstream media) wooed by the colourful display. But like the mighty peacock, when Kennedy turned around, the colours weren’t so bright. The reality remained behind the pompous dance: the education system was failing our children when it came to physical activity, funding for extra-curricular programs, and a continuing stubbornness to acknowledge its role in the matter.
At the time, we were told by some in the vending industry we were wasting our time… targeting politicians for ridicule was not the answer. But, what we saw here at Canadian Vending was a lack of advocacy for the other side. Kennedy and his counterparts across the country had the attention of the mainstream media and effectively delivered a message that vending was causing our kids to get fat and no one was speaking out.
We remain vocal, whether it’s popular or not, against the misleading message being delivered by those who want to shift the blame. And we’re thrilled to see an advocacy program launched in Canada.
With so much uncertainty over where the industry is going, through legislative and technological change, our collective voice needs to be strong, and it needs to be unified. Otherwise we will be forced to sit back and watch other political peacocks dance around with their feathers all puffed out and destroy our industry even more.o