It seems Gerber has stirred up some controversy. This week, the pureed food purveyors appointed its first-ever “spokesbaby” with Down syndrome.
For some, this is a move toward greater inclusion; for others, it seems like just a tokenizing PR move.
Lucas Warren, an 18-month-old from Dalton, Georgia, won the company’s Gerber baby contest yesterday — a contest his parents entered him into. Bill Partyka, CEO and president of Gerber, told Today that Lucas is “the perfect fit,” adding that the company chooses “the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby.”
Meet Lucas, the new Gerber baby! He’s the first child with Down syndrome to be given the title since the contest began more than 90 years ago https://t.co/VnZdrxEwnC pic.twitter.com/rOcDRvLNpF
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) February 7, 2018
The move generated a bunch of buzz. One woman, who has a brother with Down syndrome, wrote on Twitter about happy she was:
My brother will be 32 Saturday and has Down Syndrome. Loved seeing beautiful baby Lucas become the next #gerberbaby on @TODAYshow !! Seeing the acceptance and love for those with DS grow from where it was 32 years ago makes my heart so incredibly happy!!! 💙💛 #DownSyndrome https://t.co/wYOBto2JnH
— nιcσℓє cαяσℓιnє (@nikgenovese) February 7, 2018
Not everyone agrees, however. One mom pointed out on Gerber’s Facebook announcement that their sister company, Gerber Life Insurance (which features a cute-baby logo, just like the food makers) denied her life insurance because — wait for it — her son has Down syndrome.
So is Gerber going to include babies with Down syndrome in their Life Insurance plan now? My son was denied in 2010. The letter I was sent was really heart warming to a new mom … it said something like due to the low life expectancy of children with Down syndrome you are denied.
As these forum conversations indicate, other families have had similar experiences with Gerber Life.
The life insurance company is a “financially separate affiliate” from the baby products company but, as Business Insider points out, they have “nearly identical branding and similar marketing.” Both Gerber and Gerber Life are owned by Nestle.
When asked for comment, Gerber Life told Business Insider that they issue “policies per each child’s unique situation” and that they issue “some policies” covering children with Down syndrome.
Meanwhile, Lucas’ parents are over the moon. Mom Cortney told Today that her son “loves to play, loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh.”
Dad Jason said that he hope Lucas’ run as the face of Gerber will bring more visibility to kids with Down syndrome. Kids “with special needs be accepted and not limited,” he said. “They have the potential to change the world, just like everybody else.”
Perhaps this dad with two boys with Down syndrome summed it up best:
@GerberLife so awesome to see a baby with Down syndrome as the new Gerber Baby. It would now be awesome to see Gerber Life provide life insurance to babies with Ds. When Shane and Wyatt were born they were denied life insurance because they were born with Down syndrome
— Eric Waksmunski (@Ericwaxy) February 7, 2018