Michelle Obama continued to promote her campaign for healthier eating on Wednesday, holding a meeting at the White House calling for healthier marketing throughout the food industry, just a week after she helped launch the “Drink Up” campaign to encourage drinking more water.
From Marketing Junk Food To Healthy Food
“I’m here today with one simple request, and that is to do even more and move even faster to market responsibility to our kids,” she said, according to the Washington Post. "Whatever we all might believe about personal responsibility and self-determination, I think we can all agree that it doesn’t apply to children.”
Meeting attendees included representatives from fast food chains, such as Taco Bell, as well as from the American Heart Association and other government agencies. The First Lady said that a “cultural shift” in American eating habits has led children to eat healthier, USA Today reports.
Childhood obesity has begun to level off in the U.S., and recent research has shown that more kids are beginning to eat their vegetables and exercise more. But it will take a lot more time than the First Lady probably has in her term to make up for the past 30 years of increasing childhood obesity rates. From 1980 to 2010, childhood obesity among those aged 6 to 11 rose from seven percent to 18 percent, with more than one-third of all children and adolescents overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“You all know that our kids are like little sponges,” Michelle Obama said at the meeting. “But they don’t yet have the ability to question and analyze what they’re told.”
Fast-food marketing, in particular, has used the toys that companies put in kids' meals to attract children to want their food. An August study found that 99 percent of fast-food commercials in one year came from McDonald’s or Burger King, and that 75 percent of them were shown on either Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney XD, or Nicktoons. The researchers also found that ads targeted toward children used about 60 percent more visual cues than those targeted at adults. On the other side of the spectrum, the First Lady applauded Birds Eye Vegetables, a company that sells frozen vegetables, for using characters from the Nickelodeon show iCarly in its ads.
Opening the Debate on Healthy Food Marketing
Although she made no promises for action, or any proposals, starting a debate on the subject seemed to be Michelle Obama's only intent. Following her comments, attendees split up into two “breakout sessions,” during which time representatives from both sides of the debate would be able to speak about their concerns.
“As we all know, treats are one of the best parts of being a kid,” the First Lady said, adding that she wasn’t trying to take them away. “The goal here is to empower parents instead of undermining them as they try to make healthier choices for their families, and we need you to lead the way in creating demand for healthy foods so that kids actually start ‘pestering’ us for those foods in the grocery store.”