I can imagine that by now some of you are scratching your heads over the amount of virtual ink I’ve recently devoted to the forthcoming “FNV” campaign.
To recap, this is the new effort from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), funded by a coalition of corporations and nonprofits, that will use high-powered celebrities like Jessica Alba and Nick Jonas as well as junk-food-style marketing tactics to promote fruits and vegetables. Two weeks ago I wrote a post telling you why I loved the idea, which set off a bit of controversy on Twitter. That controversy prompted me to contact PHA for more information, which I shared in a follow-up post. Then Casey Hinds (US Healthy Kids) and I debated the campaign in a series of two posts on Beyond Chron (Hinds’ “con” view is here; my “pro” rebuttal is here.)
And now today I want to share two more perspectives in the debate.
The first post is from one of my favorite kid/food bloggers, Brianne DeRosa of Red Round or Green. In “Marketing Healthy Foods to Kids – It Isn’t About the Campaign,” DeRosa rightly points out that, totally apart from the ethical issues involved, it’s going to take a whole lot more than marketing to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in this country and she does a great job of explaining why that’s the case.
The second post is from Dr. Daniel Taber, PhD, MPH, an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health. Taber is a wonderful writer on public health issues and on today’s Beyond Chron he specifically addresses my debate with Hinds (“FNV: Settling the Debate.”) Here’s a spoiler quote to pique your interest:
It’s rare to see two well-spoken, passionate food policy advocates, both of whom I greatly respect, in disagreement.
The debate was also compelling because I wasn’t sure whose side I was on. I’m an opinionated guy with thoughts on everything from food policy to March Madness to The Bachelor, but I couldn’t settle on a simple question: “Should fruits and vegetables be marketed to children?”
When I finished reading both perspectives, I instantly tweeted that my next blog should be, “Why Hinds and Siegel are both right.”
I changed my mind. Instead, I’m going to write, “Why Hinds is right … and I’m siding with Siegel anyway.”
So, for those of you scratching your heads, just why are so many of us in the food policy world devoting so much thought to the FNV campaign? (Honestly, we may now have collectively spent more time on it than the creators of the campaign itself!)
It’s because the FNV campaign gets to the heart of some really big questions about how we’re going to address our nation’s current public health crisis. Are we going to work with industry or not? Should we adopt industry-proven marketing tactics in the fight, or are such tactics inherently problematic since they entice rather than educate? Can a campaign that’s intended to benefit the private sector also play a legitimate role in public health education? Is marketing to kids acceptable if the product in question is unequivocally healthful, or is it always unethical?
As a left-leaning advocate, I’m supportive of governmental regulation in this area including, for example, a complete ban on junk food advertising to children as well as the imposition of soda taxes, product warning labels and more. But I’m also, at heart, a realist. And if recent events — such as McDonald’s voluntarily agreeing to use antibiotic-free chicken — tell us anything, it’s that the government is now lagging far behind the private sector on many public health issues. So whenever we can harness market forces to both improve health and increase profits — which, after all, is the hope of the FNV campaign — I believe we should seize those opportunities enthusiastically.
But what do you think? Or, to use Taber’s joke on Twitter yesterday, are you on #TeamCasey or #TeamBettina? I won’t be offended if you’re not on my team, so let me know in a comment below.
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