Earlier this month, the nation’s largest health charity, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, announced a $500 million commitment over the next decade to curb childhood obesity, adding to its previous spending of the same amount since 2007. A billion dollars over 18 years is a lot of money. But let’s place it in context: The soda lobby spent at least $100 million in five years on public relations alone, for advertising campaigns that thwart many of the policies the foundation supports. While we know that industry vastly outspends nonprofit advocacy groups on lobbying, new data reveals that spending on public relations may be even more important. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …
Marketing to Children
As I wrote in June, a bitter fight erupted in Washington, D.C., when the School Nutrition Association (SNA) — representing the nation’s 55,000 school food professionals — decided to oppose nutrition improvements to federally subsidized school meals, claiming that districts face insurmountable challenges from too many changes happening too quickly. Michelle Obama has made the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 one of her top causes and she is pulling no punches defending the new rules, which require schools to serve lower-sodium and lower-fat meals with more whole grains and fruit and vegetable servings. The result is an unfortunate standoff between the White House and the SNA’s current leadership. Read rest at Al Jazeera America ....
I recently attended the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association, the trade group that represents the 55,000 food service workers who have the thankless job of feeding millions of schoolchildren every day. While there, I tweeted out a few photos I took on the expo floor and I’ve uploaded all 82 of them to Instagram here.
The images are more or less organized by either food category or company. Several of the event’s official sponsors, including Tyson, PepsiCo, and Domino’s were listed on prominent signs here and here.
First is a series of mascots, including Smuckers, Chester the Cheetah, and the State Fair hotdog. At the National Dairy Council booth, attendees were lined up to have their photo taken with a statue of a cow. Why? Because (I was told) they would get a plush toy cow. The booth was promoting “Fuel up to Play” a nutrition program in schools that emphasizes dairy.
Last week I attended the School Nutrition Association’s annual meeting in Boston, a gathering of the nation’s school food service workers. While most of the controversy lately has focused on the federally-required improvements to nutrition standards for school lunches, getting lost in the shuffle are new standards coming online this fall for school snacks and beverages. Read rest at TIME.com …
Following is the media coverage so far for my recent report, Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods.
Mother Jones: How the US Government Helps McDonald’s Sell Junk Food
Los Angeles Times: Bad government programs watch: Promoting milk as a health food
Food Politics: Michele Simon’s latest report: “Whitewashed”
Naturally Savvy: Most Dairy Products Are Junk Foods, Says New Report
The Incidental Economist: The continued power of the milk-industrial complex
The United States is in the midst of a public health epidemic due to poor diet. While much of the focus has been on obvious culprits such as sugary soft drinks and fast food, dairy foods often get a pass. The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. But the context of how people consume dairy matters.
Am thrilled to be featured in a new powerful film by Laurie David and Katie Couric that features an all-star line-up.
If you search for “Fed Up movie” on Google, the first link you see is not the film’s website, but rather a page from the Grocery Manufacturers Association called “Fed Up Facts“. It’s a silly and desperate attempt by Big Food to respond to the star-power that has Katie Couric appearing all over the mainstream media spreading a message that the food industry doesn’t want you to hear. (GMA denies that “the food industry purposely advertises unhealthy foods to children”. It must happen by accident.)
The film really pulls no punches aiming to dispel the junk food industry’s strongest talking points: it’s all a matter of personal responsibility; we can just exercise our way to health; and we don’t need government regulation. Even Let’s Move is criticized for placing too much emphasis on physical activity and industry partnerships. But as I told the filmmakers, the first lady is in the wrong wing of the White House. (That quote didn’t make the final cut, alas. See this review saying the film lacks policy solutions, which I mostly agree with.)
By focusing on marketing, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign won’t save our children’s health
Michelle Obama is probably the most popular first lady in recent memory, with approval ratings embarrassingly higher than her husband’s, at least in 2012. She is the picture of health, speaks openly about the challenges of raising two daughters and feeding them right and uses her platform to call attention to the country’s childhood obesity crisis through her Let’s Move program. And yet, with all this going for her, even she cannot make a serious dent in the problem of how food and media corporations are targeting children with junk-food advertising. Read rest at Al Jazeera America ….
The Other NRA: National Restaurant Association eviscerates the rights of customers, workers, and children
Food movement leaders tend to stick to their specific issues, whether it’s advocating for healthy food, fighting for workers’ rights or curbing marketing to children. For each of these issues, there are numerous food corporations that need to change. But there is one organization that conveniently provides us with one giant target for all of them: the National Restaurant Association.