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Steve Jobs Death: How Former Apple CEO Helped Kids Eat Better and Fight AIDS in Africa

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By Ray Downs, Christian Post Reporter
October 7, 2011|2:34 pm

Steve Jobs is remembered for being one of the world’s foremost innovators of technology, but he was also an innovator in trying to help people eat healthier and live longer.

Jobs' first attempt to try to improve people's eating habits came in 1986, when he created the Steven P. Jobs Foundation. According to Dealbook, Jobs intended the foundation to promote better nutrition and vegetarianism.

The foundation had to be closed a year later, however, due to Jobs' hectic schedule. He had just left Apple and started his new venture, NeXt.

"He clearly didn't have the time," said Mark Vermilion, whom Jobs hired away from Apple to run the foundation, Dealbook reported.

Jobs, who was heavily influenced by Buddhist teachings and was either a vegetarian or pescetarian (among the various reports about Jobs' eating habits, none indicate that he ate red meat), would later use his power and influence to encourage people to eat healthier.

In 2006, as the president of Pixar, Jobs was behind the termination of a lucrative, 10-year contract between Pixar's parent company, Disney, and McDonald's. The contact meant the two corporations promoted each other's products on Happy Meals.

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"There is value" in fast-food tie-ins, Jobs said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But there are also some concerns, as our society becomes more conscious of some of the implications of fast food."

Dr. J. Michael McGinnis, chairman of a National Academy of Sciences panel that released a study showing how food marketing adversely affects children's diets, told the LA Times that Disney's decision to stop using unhealthy food to market its movies would influence fast-food chains to offer healthier food.

"I think it would have impact in contributing to the cultural change that is necessary," McGinnis said. "The committee thought it was important for the use of cartoon characters that appeal to children only to be used in the marketing of healthy products."

Disney's decision came at a time when the fast-food industry was taking heavy criticism for its unhealthy food offerings, especially for children.

Since then, 19 of the country's biggest food chains, including Burger King and Denny's, have volunteered to participate in the Kids LiveWell initiative, which promotes healthier food options for kids, the Christian Science Monitor reported in July.

McDonald's is not one of the participating chains, but it has made efforts to offer healthier alternatives for kids by including bottled water and apple slices instead of sugary soft drinks and French fries in its happy meals.

Jobs even promoted his belief that kids should eat better on Halloween. According to a tribute from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Jobs was “a longtime health advocate who reportedly once handed out containers of carrot juice at Halloween."

Aside from encouraging people to eat better, Jobs was also influential in fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. U2 singer, Bono praised Jobs for being a formidable contributor to the cause to the disease in the region.

"Apple's contribution to our fight against AIDS in Africa has been invaluable," Bono wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece.

The company had given "tens of millions of dollars that have transformed the lives of more than two million Africans through H.I.V. testing, treatment and counseling. This is serious and significant. And Apple’s involvement has encouraged other companies to step up," Bono wrote.

According to Bono, when he first approached Jobs about participating in his (RED) cause, Jobs said, "There is nothing better than the chance to save lives."

Despite Jobs' involvement in the philanthropic enterprises, there are some critics who say the former Apple CEO did not do enough.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy called Jobs a "a polarizing figure in the nonprofit world" and criticized him for not signing the Giving Pledge, which encourages the wealthiest families in America to donate the majority their wealth to charity. In contrast, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have signed the pledge.

Leander Kahney of Wired, was extremely critical of Jobs. "Given Jobs' social detachment, I'm confused by the adulation he enjoys," she wrote in 2006. "Yes, he has great charisma and his presentations are good theater. But his absence from public discourse makes him a cipher. People project their values onto him, and he skates away from the responsibilities that come with great wealth and power."

However, Bono defended Jobs from people who said he was not generous enough.

"Just because he's been extremely busy, that doesn't mean that he and his wife, Laurene, have not been thinking about these things," he wrote. "You don’t have to be a friend of his to know what a private person he is or that he doesn't do things by halves."

 

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