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Kellogg's CEO Suggests Families Should Serve Cereal For Dinner If They Are Struggling To Afford Food

Photo: ViDI Studio / Shutterstock
young woman smiling while eating a bowl of cereal at her dining table

WK Kellogg's CEO, Gary Pilnick, has come under fire after comments he made during an interview regarding the share of income consumers spend on food seemed extremely out of touch.

In a TikTok video, a content creator and CEO of Ivory Paper Co., Alitzah Stinson, shared an interview Pilnick did with CNBC, where the businessman refused to address the public health crisis that's happening in this country regarding food consumption.

Pilnick suggested that families eat cereal for dinner if they are struggling to afford food.

In Pilnick's interview with CNBC, he claimed that cereal has always been an affordable food for families, and therefore, if individuals are struggling to pay for groceries and put family meals on the table, then they should instead buy boxes of cereal and eat that for dinner.

"The cereal category has always been quite affordable and it tends to be a great destination when consumers are under pressure," Pilnick claimed. "Some of the things we're doing first is messaging. We gotta reach the consumer where they are, so we're advertising cereal for dinner."

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Pilnick insisted that when you look at the cost of cereal for a family versus what they can afford to buy, cereal is the better option. Of course, it's very easy to say this as someone with millions of dollars at their disposal running a billion-dollar company. 

Pilnick's interview caught the attention of Stinson, who brought up the same point: This is a man making more money than any average American could dream of, and he actually suggested that those same people buy Kellogg's cereal and have that for dinner. He used the unfortunate reality that many people can't afford to put food on the table for their families as a way to sell their brand of cereal.

   

   

"This is exactly why I have imposter syndrome about being the CEO of my own small business because this is what billion-dollar CEOs do. They are so tone-deaf," Stinson observed. "It is impossible to imagine that someone as wealthy and educated as him could truly say that with his chest."

Stinson pointed out that instead of addressing the issue head-on, Pilnick refused to validate struggling families and just told everyone to buy boxes of Kellogg's cereal and eat that for dinner. 

Millions of families in the United States are experiencing food insecurity.

A report from the United States Department of Agriculture found that hunger in the U.S. rose sharply in 2022. Nearly 13% of American households were food insecure in 2022. That means some 17 million families, or 1 in 8 U.S. households, struggled to meet their nutritional needs at some point in the year.

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"These numbers are more than statistics. They paint a picture of just how many Americans faced the heartbreaking challenge last year of struggling to meet a basic need for themselves and their children," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

   

   

Food insecurity serves as an even bigger problem for certain communities compared to others, especially for Black people. More than 22% of Black families reported suffering from not being able to afford food, and more than 33% of single mother-led households reported food insecurity over the same year.

So, for Gary Pilnick to sit there and claim that all these families need to do is buy more cereal and have that for dinner is just a brazen slap in the face. Many people in the comments likened his statement to Marie Antoinette's infamous "Let them eat cake" narrative. 

Using the plight of millions of Americans starving to promote Kellogg's cereal is the same reason why so many people feel as if millionaires and billionaires are just oblivious to the simple privileges they hold in this world. Rather than using his platform and influence for positive change, Pilnick chose to live inside a bubble of privilege that betrays a lack of empathy and understanding.

As a prominent leader of a company in the food industry, Pilnick's comments showed a serious disconnect from reality. His refusal to address the startling numbers and statistics of those who are going hungry in this country was and is, irresponsible and thoughtless.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.