The Struggle for Healthy Kids Continues


Imagine walking into a grocery store and hearing a child beg his parents to buy him strawberries, apples, or yogurt. In reality, you are far more likely to hear kids plead for ice cream or sugary cereals. For this reason, the healthy foods movement has recently gone to great lengths to begin to regulate the types of foods advertised to children. These new regulations could bring this imaginary scenario closer to a reality.

The problem of childhood obesity is growing. One third of U.S. children ages 5-18 are overweight or obese, partly because they are eating the wrong foods. But why do kids beg for Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms, and soda? One culprit is the advertising industry. Each year, food and beverage companies spend approximately $2 billion advertising their products to children using psychology, bright colors, and cuddly cartoon characters.[1][1]

In 2009 Congress asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA and the USDA to create a set of voluntary guidelines about the types of food that are marketed directly to children.  These guidelines would encourage companies that use cartoon characters and other youth-targeted advertising techniques to cut down on the salt, sugar, and fat in their products.  Hopefully, if healthy foods are emphasized instead of junk foods, kids will begin to request fruits, veggies and whole grains more often. Although these guidelines would not be mandatory or enforced, they would act as a stepping stone on the way to a healthier America. Recently, however, major advertising and food companies have started lobbying against these guidelines. Leading the fight are giants such as PepsiCo, Time Warner, General Mills and Kellogg; all of whom want to continue to market junk food to kids.

Thankfully, there is still time to take a stand on this issue.  Post your comments today to let the FTC know that they have your support! In the meantime, teach good eating habits at home!  Check out Earth Day Network’s lesson ideas for good health and remember to always lead by example. It’s hard to be a kid in the 21st century and the bombardment of media doesn’t make it any easier, especially if ad companies don’t have a kids’ best interest at heart. Together, we can win this battle for a healthier America!

Annie Stoller-Patterson is an Intern in the Education Department at Earth Day Network

[1][1] Eggen, Dan and Layton, Lyndsey. “Industries Lobby Against Voluntary Nutrition Guidelines for Food Marketed to Kids.” The Washington Post. Retrieved July 11, 2011 from