Now You Can Take Your Kids To The “Krispy Kreme Challenge” Clinic

No, this isn't a prank. A child's healthcare clinic in North Carolina now carries the "Krispy Kreme Challenge" name.

No, this isn’t a prank. A child’s healthcare clinic in North Carolina now carries the “Krispy Kreme Challenge” name.

While hospital naming rights have long been up for grabs to big donors, it’s not every day that a healthcare facility is branded with the name of a product that most people associate with being unhealthy. There’s no “Black Tar Heroin Elder Care Facility” or “Stick Your Finger In The Light Socket Cancer Center,” but there is now a Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic.

And no, this isn’t some jokey, guerrilla advertising thing where Krispy Kreme employees dress up as doctors and nurses. It’s an actual, existing children’s healthcare facility run by the University of North Carolina.

Earlier this month, the N.C. Children’s Specialty Clinic was renamed after the operators of the Krispy Kreme Challenge — a local fundraising race that involves the compulsory eating of a dozen donuts — committed to raise $2 million for the clinic.

The Challenge is not an official Krispy Kreme event, and UNC is trying to downplay the apparent disconnect between the sugary brand name and using it for a children’s health clinic.

A rep for the clinic recently told Fusion that “The clinic is a namesake for the Krispy Kreme Challenge… It’s a celebration and a recognition of the students” who organize the race.

That same rep tells Consumerist that Krispy Kreme corporate had nothing to do with the renaming.

“The Park Scholars [the organizers of the race] have Krispy Kreme’s permission (via a legal contract) to use its trademarked name in the ‘Krispy Kreme Challenge,'” explains the rep. “With that contract in hand, UNC Health Care did not involve the corporation in any discussions regarding the clinic renaming.”

In spite of UNC trying to frame the renaming as a recognition of the students who raised the fund, some physicians and public health advocates don’t really see it that way.

“Shame on my colleagues for not finding a way to accept funds without providing free advertisement for junk food,” one professor of nutrition and economics at UNC told MedPage Today about the name change. “What is interesting about this is if we named this the Winston-Salem [cigarette] clinic, it would outrage America and maybe even the same for the Coca-Cola Clinic, but Krispy Kremes are equally horrible for our health — they are high sugar, high fat, refined carbohydrate junk food primed to add to the child obesity problem plaguing North Carolina.”

Margot Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, echoes this sentiment.

“Working in nutrition, I see the devastating effects of how bad diets can undermine children’s health, resulting in type 2 diabetes and obesity,” explains Wootan. “Given kids’ near-constant exposure to junk food advertising, it can be hard for parents to feed kids well. The last thing we need is doctors and healthcare providers undermining their own medical advice by plastering a doughnut brand on their medical offices.”

Wootan and the CSPI have started a petition calling on the hospital’s physician-in-chief to reconsider the name change.

In response to the petition, the UNC rep reiterates that the folks at Park Scholars — a non-profit organization — are the ones responsible for the name change and not the donut chain, which the school maintains “has absolutely no involvement in the organization or the race itself beyond permitting the Park Scholars to use its trademarked name in the race title.”

CSPI’s Wootan contends that if UNC is going to honor the students who raised the funds — why not honor their organization instead of the donut chain?

“If UNC wants to honor the medical students who work so hard to raise funds for children’s health, why not rename the healthcare facility after the student group?” she asks. “The Park Scholars Children’s Specialty Clinic sounds a lot better than anything named for Krispy Kreme.”