When I opened the e-mail about an online course related to food marketing to youth, I thought it looked interesting. My schedule was full but at least with this on-line course I could work on it when I had the time. Having put the finishing touches on a new fact sheet addressing the obesity issue I hoped this course would reinforce my thinking about healthy food choices and give me some additional ideas of ways to impact healthy eating habits in others. Well, I was not disappointed.
The University of Minnesota Extension Educators raised my awareness of the marketing strategies the food industry uses to market to children. The discussion questions brought about a multitude of opinions from educators from across the country. In the end our answer is the same; we must teach the whole family about healthy food choices in order to address the growing obesity epidemic.
Food marketers spent $1.6 billion to promote their products to children ages 12 to 17 in the United States in 2006. Beverages, packaged snacks, baked goods, cereals and quick-serve restaurants are included in this marketing blitz. While a lot of the advertising comes as television ads, other important methods include packaging, displays in stores and of course, the internet. At a very young age children are influenced by spokescharacters and celebrity endorsements. The internet apps have brought us “advergames” which are online games with features connected to sales of specific products.
How we, as parents, respond to all of the marketing strategies targeting food choices is to make some family ground rules. Since much of the advertising comes to us through TV viewing keep these tips in mind:
• Avoid using TV as a babysitter
• Know what your kids are watching. And set guidelines about when and what children watch.
• Keep TV out of kids’ bedrooms.
• Turn TV off during meals.
• Monitor the quantity and quality of all “Screen time” (including TV and computer)
You and I know that we cannot change the world of advertising but with a positive parenting style, which emphasizes both nurturing and discipline, we can teach youngsters about healthy food choices.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at: (620)793-1910 or email@example.com