There are so many fun things we can do with our children and grandchildren: walks in the park, reading books, playing soccer or basketball, going to the grocery store. . .NOT! Taking children to the grocery store is about as much fun as being stuck on the runway of a plane with them (in the middle of summer with no air conditioning).
One of the main reasons it’s such an ordeal is that food manufacturers know how to reach their intended targets: our kids, and we all pay the price.
But, if First Lady Michelle Obama has her way, that all may change. In a summit on Wednesday, Mrs. Obama challenged food companies and television broadcasters to change their marketing strategy to “empower parents instead of undermining them.”
And undermining parents is exactly what they do. Many parents are too exhausted to argue about nutrition in the middle of shopping with the kids; they finally give in and throw the sugar-laden, nutrient-challenged cereal in the back of the cart.
Research shows that one of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity is food marketing. A 2010 study conducted by Yale doctoral student Christina Roberto bears this out. Roberto took snacks, both health and not-so-healthy fare, to a few child care centers on two different occasions. She verified what parents already know: children perceive food as being yummier if a picture of one of their three favorite cartoon characters graces the packaging (for Roberto’s study, Dora the Explorer, Shrek and Scooby Doo were the draws).
Mrs. Obama criticized this underhanded marketing ploy; citing a “cultural shift” in American eating habits, she declared that if manufacturers would use their marketing skills to encourage healthy eating, they would contribute substantially to the company bottom line. She praised Bird’s Eye for using cast members from Nickelodeon’s iCarly to inspire children to eat their vegetables.
In Roberto’s 2010 report, she also encouraged food manufacturers to take responsibility for how they market their products — 1 in 3 children are still at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes despite some of the positive trends we’re beginning to see.