Food Companies’ Principles for Advertising in Schools Fail to Fully Address Childhood Obesity

October 20, 2009

By Amanda Chablani, HSC Policy Specialist

As
we’ve blogged about here
and here,
many food companies have a lot at stake when it comes to the food kids eat in
school. Which is why the new advertising principles created by the Children's Food
and Beverage Advertising Initiative
(a self-regulatory industry group) seem to be a
fairly weak attempt to address the growing concerns expressed by legislators,
parents, and advocacy groups about the marketing of junk food in schools. 

While
my understanding of advertising regulation (even industry-spearheaded regulation) is that of
responsible community mindedness, it is perhaps not surprising that this organization — with a membership that includes Burger King,
ConAgra, Hershey, and Coca-Cola — has released a document that dedicates pages and pages to outlining the many ways that school advertising is
acceptable: aprons worn by food service staff, appearances by
‘spokes’-characters (think Ronald McDonald), classroom calendars provided to
teachers, and many, many others.

Perhaps
most disturbing is the promotion of sponsored curricula, teaching materials,
and reward programs that can be used in the classroom (for instance, Pizza Hut
pizzas provided to students who read a certain number of books).  


As
Margo G. Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest summarizes in her piece
“Programs like Pizza Hut's turn reading into a commercial proposition
that, unfortunately, ends up promoting obesity and disease in children.” 

While it appears that the forces behind this principles document are not committed to the same kind of
change we would like to see, Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Todd Platt
(R-PA) have introduced legislation
requiring a study of the nutritional quality of foods, the extent and type of
marketing, and the current state of regulation of marketing foods in schools. 

We'll keep you posted on this legislation and similar efforts. 

The food that kids eat in school can be healthy and have plenty of kid appeal without branded marketing. At our upcoming Cooking Up Change healthy cooking contest, high school students studying culinary arts will share healthy, tasty school meals they've created to meet nutrition requirements on a tight budget. The winning school meal will be served in high school cafeterias nationwide — with an honest stamp of student approval. Learn more about Cooking Up Change and what school food can look like when students are in charge.