Last week I had a post go viral. My hits went into the stratosphere, and traffic to my blog went up by a factor of almost 1,000. I know this is my 15 minutes, and they’re fading fast. So, while I still have some elevated traffic, I thought I’d re-blog a few older posts, to see what happens.
Don’t Supersize Me: A modest proposal.
This post first appeared on Nov. 9, 2012.
What if there were a way to increase donations to worthy causes, while at the same time help fight this country’s obesity problem?
I think there is a way, and it would be simple to test. Suppose fast food restaurants that offer “meal deals” (burger + drink + one side, say) offered a $1 donation to Oxfam (or any other charity) as one of the side dish options?
There are two obvious benefits. One, I believe that people donate to charities more if they can do so conveniently. I myself had never given money personally to a hungry family, but when a local grocery store asks me if I want to buy a box of food “for the children” I do so almost automatically. Convenience allows us to then feel good about ourselves.
Secondly, people who choose this “side dish” are clearly missing out on calories that most don’t need anyway. How often do people get french fries, even when they don’t want them, just because they “came with the meal”? And subsequently, how many people eat the fries, because they paid for them–-even if they are no longer hungry? I’ve done this myself, although it seems irrational in hindsight.
What if instead I order a $5 meal deal and the cashier asks, “What side?” and my response is, “give it to the hungry”, and the restaurant then has some automatic money transfer mechanism in place to make the donation in an instant? I don’t know which would do society more good: the money raised, or the calories not consumed. Why isn’t this a win/win? Or a win/win/win, since the restaurant doesn’t lose anything, and only gains the positive PR? It would even show evidence that the restaurant has heard the message of “Supersize Me” and taken it to heart.
I think this idea is a good one, and I hope someone reads this post and shares the idea. All it would take would be one restaurant to start doing this, and before long all of them would be doing it. I can’t see a single downside at all.
Admittedly, this may have been tried before. If so: I wonder why it hasn’t caught on? What are the economics of such institutionalized charity? I think there are other interesting questions at play here…does charity in fact increase when it is convenient to give? (I’d love to see the research data on this.) Would people forgo empty calories in such a scenario? What would be the economic benefit of millions of calories not being consumed? Might there even be an adverse effect for, say, the potato industry, if less fries are scarfed down?
Let me know what you think. And please share this if you think that someone, somewhere, will see it and have the possibility of implementing it.
[Note: this blog post, first posted on Nov. 9, 2012, was originally written on Dec. 15, 2010, and emailed to a celebrity who will remain nameless. Needless to say, there was never a response…not even an automated one.]