The holiday season, unfortunately, has become one of the more appropriate times of the year to talk about advertising. From Black Friday through day after Christmas shopping, there are ads all around us. However, it is not just around the holidays that food companies are doing targeted marketing, often to children and communities who already suffer disproportionately from health disparities and food insecurity.
Last month, Why Hunger?, a grassroots organization promoting access to healthy food in New York City, hosted a Google + Hangout discussion about fast food marketing to children. The conversation goes through the intricacies and complexities of advertising and food corporations. If you have used the Eating Well Curriculum at your church, you will recognize one of the experts who spoke, Anna Lappe’ from the film Nourish.
One line that struck me and caught me by surprise is that Lappe’ and the other presenter, Michele Simon, were not proposing that advertising change and start marketing healthy foods to kids; instead, they contend that we do not need more advertising. Lappe’ says, “What are we for if we’re against marketing? If we are really talking about communicating to children healthy ideas about food, that’s called education, that’s not marketing. Right? So, what are programs we can support in schools that focus on educating children about healthy foods and healthy eating?” This is very different from slapping a picture of Shrek on a bag of carrots to get kids to eat them. Educating kids on how to make healthy choices is what we need to focus on. If you would like to watch a recording of the whole conversation, follow this link. It is about 50 minutes long and goes into depth about regulation, policy, and the many ways that the food industry focuses advertising on children.
While the influence of advertising is intimidating and alarming, I am encouraged to know that across North Carolina there are many schools, community organizations, and places of worship are educating children about healthy food choices. To read just a few of their stories, check out the “Success Stories” on our blog.
–Shannon Axtell Martin, PHW Regional Consultant
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.