What She Said

One thing I love about being part of a blogging community is the way we can draw upon each other’s work and resources to advocate for our common goals.

That’s how I felt when I read this recent post from Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition, addressing critics who think that instead of reining in the food and beverage industries’ $2-billion-a-year effort to market junk food to children, parents should just stand firm and say “no” to their kids.  This is a common refrain from those who oppose limits on youth junk food marketing and Sally’s post is such a definitive and perfect response, from now on I’m just going to link to it every time this issue comes up and say, “What she said.”  It’s definitely worth your time to read.

There’s only one point on which I and some of my colleagues (including, perhaps, Sally) differ when it comes to the marketing of food to children.  I’m previously on record as supporting youth-directed marketing of just one type of product —  whole or minimally processed fruits and vegetables — even though some advocates believe even this type of marketing is taking unfair advantage of kids.

But as I wrote in a debate on this issue with advocate Casey Hinds in Beyond Chron earlier this year, “Given that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is unequivocally good for children, how different are [such] efforts from using Sesame Street characters to encourage kids to brush their teeth or licensing Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat character to get them reading?”  You can read the entire debate with Casey here.

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State of the Tray: Are Healthier School Meals at Risk?

civil eats logoI’m so pleased to have a reported piece up on Civil Eats today in which I examine the question of whether the gains of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act may be at risk due to industry pressure and students’ resistance to healthier foods.

I hope you’ll take a look!

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What We Missed While We Were Talking About Chicken (A Kid/Food News Round-Up)

While this blog was dominated by the discussion of Chinese-processed chicken in school meals, a lot has been going on in the kid-and-food-news world.  Here’s a quick roundup to keep you up to speed.

First Lady Addresses Problem of Junk Food Marketing to Kids

On September 19th, Michelle Obama convened a landmark summit at the White House to discuss the food and beverage industries’ marketing to children, a matter of great concern to me and many other food policy activists.  Representatives from industry and the public health and academic communities were in attendance  and the First Lady’s speech was widely lauded for its candor.  (See, for example, Marion Nestle’s recap here.)  But Michele Simon laments that it was the wrong Obama taking on the issue.  Whether anything productive comes from the summit remains to be seen, but kudos to Mrs. Obama for at least squarely addressing the issue.

McDonald’s Improves its Kids’ Meals — But With a Catch?

Last week McDonald’s announced that it was partnering with the Clinton Foundation’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation to improve its Happy Meals.  (Read the text of the announcement here.)  One of the commitments made by McDonald’s was agreeing to promote only water, milk and juice as the standard Happy Meal beverage, including removing soda from its menu boards.  But Casey Hinds of KY Healthy Kids decided to look at the actual text of the McDonalds/AHG agreement and found that soda can indeed still appear on menu boards as a Happy Meals beverage choice.   The Center for Science in the Public Interest cried foul.  And Marion Nestle pointed out that, at any rate, the promised Happy Meal improvements are going to be a long time coming.

Is Biased Reporting Hurting the Food Movement?

Food policy advocate Nancy Huehnergarth had a great piece in The Hill earlier this week pointing out how news reporting regarding food policy initiatives, such as the healthier new school meal standards, is often misleading and sensationalistic, which only harms those efforts.

WashPo Special Report on Childhood Obesity — Good News?

Last week the Washington Post issued a feature on childhood obesity and the degree to which the tide might be turning.  You can find all the collected stories here.

Sugar and the School Food Environment

The Center for Investigative Reporting has issued a today a good report on the lack of regulation on sugar in the school food environment.  You can read that here.

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New Study: Parents Support Restrictions on The Marketing of Food to Kids

I’m catching up on news items from last week and wanted to share an important new study from The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity regarding how parents view food industry marketing practices targeted toward their children, a study which, according to the Rudd Center, is the first of its kind.

Surveying 2,454 parents with children aged 2 to 17, the Rudd Center found that:

Parents were as concerned about junk food marketing to children as they were about alcohol and tobacco use in the media. The surveyed parents were highly aware of the “pester power” of food marketing and its effects on their children’s food preferences.

Photo credit: Yale Rudd Center

The report also found relatively high parental support for a variety of policies to promote healthier eating among children, including some restrictions on the advertising of food to kids.  Specifically, the report found that:

The majority of parents surveyed . . . endorsed policies to restrict food marketing to children, with highest support for prohibiting advertising on school buses (69%) and requiring companies to fund advertising for healthy and unhealthy foods equally (68%). Parents also approved of regulations to limit specific types of unhealthy food marketing to children under 12, including advertising/sponsorships in schools (65%), mobile marketing (65%), TV commercials (63%), viral marketing (62%), and internet advertising (61%).

There is much more to be learned from this groundbreaking study, including the environmental factors parents cite most often as obstacles to healthy eating and analyses of the responses along ethnic and political lines.  The entire report is found here.

Given that food industry self-regulation in this area has been almost comically weak, and given how hard (and successfully) the industry lobbied last year against purely voluntary federal advertising guidelines, it’s clear that only political pressure from consumers and parents will bring about real reforms.  In quantifying parents’ views about these issues for the first time, the Rudd Center brings us a step closer to making those reforms a reality.

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join over 4,500 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page (or follow on Twitter) and you’ll get your Lunch delivered fresh daily, along with bonus commentary, interesting kid-and-food links, and stimulating discussion with other readers. You can also check out my virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest and find selected TLT posts on The Huffington Post.

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