Michelle Obama: Fighting Childhood Obesity the Right Way
A few weeks ago, the White House hosted its first ever summit on food marketing to address childhood obesity in the United States. An audience of food and media industry representatives as well as government agency members and researchers listened as the First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about a key factor yet to be addressed in the childhood obesity conversation: the marketing of food to kids.
Obama stated that although obesity rates have dropped in recent years across the country, the issue has not been put to rest: 1 in 3 children are still on track to develop diabetes and diet is now the number one risk factor for disease and death in the U.S. Her proposed solution? Obama wants to get kids excited about eating healthy foods by doing a better job of marketing those foods to kids and by limiting the marketing of unhealthy foods high in sugar and fat.
She acknowledges that there has been a noticeable cultural shift towards healthier eating in this country: restaurant chains are serving kale salads, farmers’ markets and places like Whole Foods have become trendy and healthier foods have made their way into schools. But Obama says that this increase in healthier options in restaurants, supermarkets, and schools isn’t enough: children have to want to eat these healthy foods.
With technology everywhere, children are being exposed to more ads than ever before. They’re seeing countless ads for soda, burgers, fast food, candy and other unhealthy foods. If these ads were for water and natural foods like fruits and vegetables, children might be more likely to ask their parents for healthy foods in the supermarket and, even more importantly, they might be excited about eating it.
Obama is absolutely right. I’m no expert on marketing or psychology, but I can see that the saturation of advertising media is a major opportunity to instill healthy food choices in children at an early age. Do I think changing the face of food marketing towards children will wipe out the childhood obesity problem in the U.S.? Probably not. There’s no way to tell at this point what else needs to be done. But only good things can come out of having ad campaigns where kids’ favorite TV characters are telling them to drink water rather than Coca-Cola and to eat healthy snacks instead of fries. Also, I think that childhood obesity is an important issue that has been overlooked for far too long, so I applaud Obama for using her platform and taking concrete action toward finding a solution.
Cover photo source.