Follow Up: Michelle Obama Initiative Privately Admits It Partnered With ABA

Yesterday we covered how a Michelle Obama initiative has partnered with the American Beverage Association. As we wrote yesterday,

Partnership for a Healthier America is a non-profit organization whose mission is “working with the private sector to end the childhood obesity crisis.” The organization was founded in 2010 “in conjunction with – but independent from” First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Michelle Obama is the honorary chair. In 2013, Michelle and PHA announced their “Drink Up” campaign. The goal was to “encourage everyone to drink more water.”

The American Beverage Association has repeatedly referred to PHA as its partner. PHA’s Drink Up events are catered with Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, and Drink Up’s L.A. campaign is part of the ABA’s Balance Calories Initiative. Strangely, however, PHA does not list the Big Soda organization in the partner section of its website.

The PHA responded to us last night. They confirmed that the ABA “has been a Drink Up partner since the beginning.” This is an interesting choice of words. Drink Up is a PHA initiative. Hence, a Drink Up partnership implies a PHA partnership.

See the PHA email below:

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CrossFit employee Derek Fields followed up to this email by writing,

“Ok that makes sense. Do you know why the ABA isn’t listed as one of PHA’s partners here then? http://ahealthieramerica.org/our-partners/ 

Drink Up is a PHA initiative, isn’t it?”

Heather Morgan of PHA responded,

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 3.46.45 PM.png

PHA does list the ABA in the “Supporting Brands and Organizations” section of its Drink Up page. A supporting organization is not the same as a formal partner, however.

Were a visitor to check PHA’s Partner page, he’d see no evidence of a Big Soda connection. PHA’s public position on its Big Soda partnership is therefore highly misleading.

You will notice that Aquafina and Dasani are listed in the Drink Up page, but not PepsiCo or Coca-Cola, their respective owners. That is another interesting choice on PHA’s part.

Michelle Obama chose to encourage water consumption rather than warning of soda’s health consequences. Perhaps Michelle’s decision was unrelated to her Big Soda partnership. Yet it’s impossible for the public to evaluate the integrity of this decision as long as PHA fails to be transparent about this relationship.

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