Feeding America One Snickers at a Time: Mars' Ridiculous Anti-Hunger Promotion

Last Updated Aug 16, 2010 9:24 PM EDT

Snickers is teaming up with celebs like David Arquette and NASCAR driver Kyle Busch to launch an absurdly ill-conceived promotion aimed at helping alleviate hunger in America -- a problem that isn't ever going to be solved with candy bars.

It's hard to understand why Mars, which owns Snickers and a dozen other candy brands, chose to adopt hunger as its cause when there are so many other worthy and meaningful charitable endeavors that don't come with boatloads of irony and contradictions. Maybe they just couldn't resist the punny appeal of the "Bar Hunger" tagline.

The problem with a candy company professing to care about something like hunger is that the people in America who are considered "food insecure" these days (the government stopped using "hungry" in 2006) are also the same people who are eating too many Snickers and other ultra-available, non-nutritious snacks. As cheap, quick, calorie-dense food has become more and more ubiquitous, it has fueled a seemingly contradictory phenomenon in which the Americans who suffer the most from hunger are also the fattest.

This strange correlation plays out in places like the South Bronx, where people can't afford and don't have easy access to the right kind of food. "Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin," Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger told the NYT. "Hunger is certainly almost an exclusive symptom of poverty. And extra obesity is one of the symptoms of poverty."

How people can eat too many calories and also be hungry is still something of a mystery to nutrition researchers, but the prevailing theory is that diets high in junk food deprive people of nutrients, leading their bodies to crave more food in an attempt to get the nutrition it needs.

In other words, the last thing someone who's overweight and food insecure needs is a Snickers bar.

The marketing staff at Snickers seems to be oblivious to this. Working with the non-profit group Feeding America, Snickers says it is giving away 3.5 million meals, which means Mars is donating funds to the organization and then translating that into equivalent meals. As part of the promotion, David Arquette will appear in GQ touting Snicker's efforts and Kyle Busch now rides a SNICKERS 'Bar Hunger' race car.

Although Feeding Hunger is a worthwhile organization that delivers a decent amount of non-junk food to needy families, Snickers' Facebook page indicates that the promotion is all about selling more Snickers bars:

Every time you eat a Snickers, you can help us bar hunger in America. Just enter your wrapper code and we'll donate a meal to someone in need. It's the tastiest way to do some good.
Snickers marketing has long been about alleviating hunger of the more trivial sort, that grumbling in your stomach between meals. It should stick to that. When it comes the profound, interrelated problems of obesity and hunger, there's no way Snickers is going to satisfy.

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