NAACP and the Soda Industry: Where's the Leadership?

In a piece for the Huffington Post, Sonia Ospina calls the civil rights group's alignment with the soda industry an example of "leadership failure" -- but the NAACP isn't alone. Ospina outlines a five-point plan for everyone involved in this story.

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In a piece for the Huffington Post, Sonia Ospina calls the civil rights group's alignment with the soda industry an example of "leadership failure" -- but the NAACP isn't alone. Ospina outlines a five-point plan for everyone involved in this story.

New York Times article this week, "In N.A.A.C.P., Industry Gets Ally Against Soda Ban," seems to indicate a leadership failure across sectors.

According to the article, the New York chapter of the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation, two institutions committed to representing the interests of African Americans and Latinos, joined the soda industry in fighting a New York City government ban on big sodas. This is despite the fact that African Americans and Latinos are collectively approaching a 70 percent obesity rate in the city, a figure even worse in many low-income areas.

The nonprofits' stated concern is that the regulation would harm minority-owned businesses due to a "quirk in New York's regulatory structure" that exempts 7-Elevens from the soda restrictions applied to other businesses. So minority-run businesses and corner bodegas would be forced to stop selling the big sugary beverages, losing customers to nearby 7-Elevens.

However, the article points to pressure from Coca-Cola that may have accompanied its grants to the NAACP as well as the former president of the Hispanic Federation taking a job with the soda company as the true prompts for the nonprofits' support of the ban.

So we have a case of government health officials and nonprofits -- both with explicit missions to protect the public interest -- lining up to fight each other, at the same time that corporate social responsibility programs may have run amok and are now being used as leverage in a pro-soda agenda.

Read Sonia Ospina's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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