Four Pieces of the Puzzle
A Company Working to Build a Healthier America
Note from Cabot Wealth Advisory Editor Elyse Andrews: Last month, you heard from Chloe Lutts, editor of Dick Davis Digest and Dick Davis Income Digest, for the first time. She's back writing for Cabot Wealth Advisory again, this time about America's obesity epidemic and a company that's working to build a healthier America. Enjoy!
Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama launched a campaign against childhood obesity called "Let's Move!" The same day, President Obama created a task force to combat childhood obesity, underscoring the seriousness with which this administration is addressing America's obesity epidemic.
The administration's efforts include the establishment of public-private partnerships between federal agencies and the business, entertainment and medical communities to promote healthier habits for children. The program's goals include providing healthier school lunches, increasing access to fresh food in low-income areas, improving food labeling and encouraging families to eat right and exercise. The administration has requested an additional $10 billion in funding for the program over 10 years, which would largely be spent to improve the quality of school lunches and breakfasts and to increase participation in school nutrition programs.
The first lady even appeared on Fox News last week to discuss the program with talk show host Mike Huckabee, who made fighting childhood obesity a focus of his 10-year tenure as governor of Arkansas. One aspect of the fight that Huckabee focused on in the interview was personal responsibility.
Personal responsibility is essential for maintaining health and well-being. It needs to be part of any lasting solution to America's obesity problem, and could be nearly the entire solution for many individuals. Taking charge of your own health, by making wellness a personal goal, eating attentively and staying active, is basically what most people need to do to be healthy. However, on a national scale--and this problem is on a national scale--there are other important parts to the solution as well.
The responsibility for one's health is certainly personal, but it is also social, especially when our health choices affect our society as deeply as they do. As a society, we share health resources such as doctors, hospitals and research funds. We pay into the same insurance pool. We all pay into a social safety net system for individuals in our society who are struggling. And we share airplanes, trains and movie theaters with other members of society, which makes their weight problems our weight problems.
The administration's anti-obesity campaign will increase our social responsibility for America's health by encouraging and rewarding healthier, more active communities. It will encourage communities to build more places where children can play and be active. It will help communities plan "Kids Walk to School" events and locate safe routes for children to travel.
Social responsibility is also an important part of the "Let's Move" campaign's mission to bring fresh, healthy food to so-called "food deserts." These are urban and rural places in America, often low-income areas, where families don't have access to fresh healthy food. According to "Let's Move," more than 23 million Americans live over a mile from the closest supermarket.
In partnership with communities and non-profits, "Let's Move" seeks to make a healthy lifestyle possible in any neighborhood. Steps will include making healthy snacks available at corner stores, where many urban schoolchildren buy snacks during the day, and increasing the number and accessibility of real grocery stores and farmer's markets in low-income areas, both urban and rural.
Social responsibility also extends to our doctors, who are an important part of a healthy society. The American Academy of Pediatrics is educating doctors and nurses about how to reduce childhood obesity, including regular body mass index monitoring and healthy eating counseling.
Social responsibility will be an especially important tool in the fight against obesity when it comes to children. Beyond the individual and community levels, though, are larger, more influential entities that are also responsible for our national well-being. One is government.
While the U.S. government can't fix the obesity epidemic all by itself--happily, we don't live in a country where politicians can tell you what to eat--it can take measures to positively affect our national well-being.
One is mandating that food producers disclose the nutritional value of their food, a longstanding practice that makes it much easier for consumers to take personal responsibility for what they eat. It's hard to eat right when you don't know what you're eating.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is currently researching new nutritional labeling guidelines that would put consumer-friendly nutrition information on the front of packaged food.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is revamping the food pyramid and making the popular myPyramid Web site even more useful to consumers.
The USDA has also created an interactive database called the Food Atlas to provide important information, like the location of food deserts, to parents, nonprofits, government agencies and businesses that can help make America healthier.
The government is also responsible for the food served in America's public schools, which provides half of many children's daily calories. The government has already introduced higher standards for school lunches under the HealthierUS Schools Challenge Program, and the USDA is working to double the number of schools meeting those standards over the next school year.
Major school food suppliers have also agreed to work toward the new guidelines by decreasing the amount of fat, sugar and salt in school meals and serving more whole grains and produce. Their commitment is one of corporate responsibility, the fourth piece of the puzzle.
Corporations certainly have no legal obligation to shoulder this responsibility, but as powerful influencers of what we eat, they're an important part of the solution. Corporations are an important part of American society, with an ever-growing influence on our lifestyles. It is up to corporations to wield that influence in a way that is positive as well as profitable.
School lunch providers aren't the only ones stepping up to the plate. Corporations are showing leadership in every area of the fight. Soda companies are offering calorie information on the front of their products and on vending machines. One of the president's guests at the State of the Union address was a Philadelphia grocer committed to opening stores full of fresh, healthy food in low-income areas.
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One company that has taken a leadership position in the fight against childhood obesity is food and drink giant PepsiCo (PEP). PepsiCo, which pays an indicated annual dividend of $1.80, was featured in a recent issue of Dick Davis Income Digest. The editors who recommended the investment (the Dick Davis Digest features hand-picked recommendations from hundreds of the top investment newsletters) cited the company's excellent management, 3% yield and low risk in their recommendation. The stock is a good value, they wrote, while the company has good growth potential. And they predicted dividend increases to come. They also cited the high potential of PepsiCo's new line of healthy snack foods.
In addition to their corn-syrupy namesake soda, PepsiCo also makes Tropicana juices, Quaker Oats, whole-grain Sun Chips, Naked brand juice drinks and smoothies, Life cereal and many more products.
The new healthier snacks mentioned in the Income Digest recommendation are only a small part of PepsiCo's commitment to "Performance with a Purpose." As the slogan says, PepsiCo has taken the idea of corporate responsibility and reconciled it with a corporation's responsibility to its shareholders. For PepsiCo, Performance with a Purpose means taking care of its employees, minimizing its environmental footprint and providing healthy nutrition for its customers.
PepsiCo is constantly researching new products that will help consumers live healthier lives--while also making the company money. It is working with the government to enable consumers to make healthier choices by improving its product labeling. It is one of several large food companies that have voluntarily agreed to restrict advertising and marketing aimed at children to products that meet specific nutrition criteria.
The company is also a founding member of The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which seeks to fight obesity by educating consumers about the importance of balancing calories in with calories out. Members include The Kellog Company, grocery store chain Hy-Vee, Coca-Cola, The J.M. Smucker Company, Unilever, Nestlé, Safeway Inc., Mars Inc., Sara Lee Corp., Bumble Bee Foods, Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, The Hershey Company and more.
PepsiCo has also committed to the "Let's Move" initiative and announced a new beverage-labeling plan in support. Announcing the company's support, PepsiCo chairman and chief executive officer Indra Nooyi said:
"We have learned over the years there is no silver bullet to solve obesity. No single entity can do it alone. We need a guiding coalition in which individuals, companies, health agencies, consumer groups and governments all take on their appropriate responsibilities. Major food companies such as PepsiCo are in a unique position to be leaders in health and wellness because of our resources, brands, research and development capabilities, consumer reach and logistics expertise."
I couldn't have said it better myself. As every member of our society begins to shoulder their responsibility to build a healthier America, I hope more companies will decide to be like PepsiCo. For now, the company's commitment to corporate responsibility distinguishes it in a way that is proving profitable for both PepsiCo and its shareholders.
Wishing you success in your investments and beyond,
Editor of Dick Davis Digest
For Cabot Wealth Advisory
Editor's Note: Chloe Lutts is the editor of Dick Davis Income Digest, which features the top handpicked recommendations from the best investment newsletters. And if you subscribe now, you'll receive Chloe's top high-yield investment picks for 2010. Click below to get started today!