Nickel-a-Meal Ideal

A study a few years ago found that, given the choice, children would elect to eat chocolate and other sweets instead of broccoli. Not surprising. Or at least that was the case until the children were told that the veggies were actually from McDonald’s. At that point their opinions changed dramatically.

The fast food industry is about swiping money (via the publicly supported and funded credit card and ATM system) from us as consumers and transferring it to the coffers of the food marketers and profiteers instantly. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with this. We like the speed and convenience of fast foods, and many of us freely admit that much of the stuff tastes quite good.

What has become unbearable, however, is how one-sided this imbalance has become. It is part of the economic inequality that allows the wealthy to control too much.

As food consumers, we give up a lot of our voice once we pay the small dollars and cents of signing off on a typical purchase transaction. Whether we are buy clothing, home accessories, games, toys, gifts, or food, once the purchase has been made we don’t have a lot of access to what the businesses and their banks are doing. They have our money and we are on our way. And we don’t readily just give up on wanting what we want.

But food is a different; it’s a commodity we want and need, and too many people and communities have to accept what is there. Which is why so many people rely on fast and cheap food outlets, causing nearly half our our children (and particularly minority children) to be at risk of major lifetime health worries. We have to eat every day, and 150,000,000 — for good AND bad — do so everyday!

My idea of the Nickel-a-Meal Campaign is to use many of the same tools — now made possible by the advancement of technology — to turn the “voice” of purchasing burgers and fries and all the other goodies back in our favor. There is no reason that we have to cede control of this sector for fear that having a voice will hurt the business of those we purchase from. In fact, with some smart thinking, we can use the processes suggested here as part of the Nickel Campaign to convince food outlets to give us healthier burgers and foods that we might well love just as much — meaning we’ll be happier and healthier and they’ll be more profitable.

This is how capitalism is supposed to work. There is nothing bad or even “liberal” or “conservative” about the solution. It is simply a way to adapt the dysfunctional system we have in place and turn it back toward an open, honest, give-and-take process.

The funny thing is, the Nickel-a-Meal Campaign isn’t a government program or a tax. Some will call it that because there is a transfer of funds, but the fact that consumer decide to exercise their voices and make business participate is a form of “buyer empowerment.” There is no real connection to the government, other than if it opts to help play along to make sure the new system is fair too.


IN SIMPLE TERMS: Customers go to fast or other food outlets and do as they always do: buy stuff. Only they accept the default Nickel-a-Meal donation opportunity and … change is in the making. AFTER their regular transaction is made and the money processing system takes it’s cut, an extra nickel is extracted and sent to the food empowerment network without being charged. Those nickels are transferred instantly, so activist programs for food empowerment get regular, daily servings of much needed cash for CHANGE.

In an idealistic sense, some parts would be desirable. Here is a summary of the details as we see it:

  • Using marketing and promotional technologies, adults and young people of the nation create a logo for our Nickel-a-Meal Campaign. Then we get every franchise outlet to want to be part of the fun.
  • Every customer who sees the logo knows that with their order they will be given the chance to add an extra nickel to the cost — after the charge has been made and taxed. “5 cents per burger!”
  • That nickel will then be FREELY processed by the credit card or ATM services and isolated from the other money of the purchase (which goes to the banks and the restaurant).
  • Once processed, the nickel will be “dropped” into the secure container of charity for the region just like one might drop coins in a jar at a checkout stand — giving the money instantly to a local food empowerment network that can use the money as quickly as it is spent to discover what is happening in each neighborhood where burgers are sold.
  • Smart consumers and smart food outlet owners will figure out that if they respond to what is said by these networks, they will sell more of their products even as the amount of money for social good increases too — the more we eat for “change” the more customers who will go back to the burger place!


Our fore-parents fought the American Revolution to have a voice in their government. But this doesn’t mean they can’t have a voice in their business and corporate sectors too, independent of what we do together as consumers or taxpayers. The Nickel-a-Meal Campaign is a voluntary process that seeks to harness the power of electronic transactions for social, community and dietary good.

Charging extra taxes for sodas or other poor quality foods does not bring about change in the system that pulls in billions of dollars on a daily basis. The nickels of the Nickel-a-Meal Campaign could eventually add up to 150,000,000 coins EVERY SINGLE DAY.

What do you think? What kinds of details can you offer? Questions/Concerns/Ideas? Click over the Menu BLOG and have a say!


4 thoughts on “Nickel-a-Meal Ideal

  1. If the donations were leveraged as micro-enterprise loans for small local food producers, either cooking or growing, it would allow neighborhood based food production as a alternative to corporate restaurants. In many neighborhoods untapped labor in the form of disabled, unemployed and underemployed residents exist.

    • Yes, that is indeed one perfect idea. Microloans, run through local collectors of the nickels, would be a good way to use the funds and still have some left over upon return for other projects. But it would also be necessary to make some direct charitable donations from the funds, including those that employ people locally, because not all good ideas can start as profitable ventures right away. But the beauty of the project is that, once collected, the nickels can go to all types of regional initiatives.

  2. Explain more about how you foresee the money going to “food” empowerment networks will transfer as “healthier” eating?

    • Once the nickels are collected they go instantly to public charities (such as the United Way or regional community foundations). By definition, they have to use the money on socially responsible efforts. The expectation is that the money will be quickly used to funds all types of efforts that are healthier. Of course, local areas get to decide what works for them. But the fact that the dollars come through these nickels increases the chance that they will go to good programs with smart eating components. In addition, building a community of followers will allow for those people to sit down and talk with their fast food franchise owners, who can put pressure on their corporate bosses to allow them to serve up new types of foods. Even companies like McDonalds adjust their menus to different national preferences — if the US’s little town decided they wanted McD’s with better choices, who is to say the CEOs won’t give in? Sorry for the slow response.

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