Schooled: New Rules Curb Food Marketing Aimed at Students

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/veteransaffairs/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/veteransaffairs/

First Lady Michelle Obama wants to alter how children in America view food by changing what they view about food. On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama revealed new rules that restrict marketing in schools. ”I think we can all agree that our classrooms should be healthy places where kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food,” Obama said.

Under the new guidelines if the food item, or drink, cannot be sold in a school setting the company cannot advertise the product in schools. Obama was joined by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for the announcement. The USDA will be working with the White House as the new regulations are implemented. ”The new guidelines will ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices,” Vilsack stated in a blog post for the USDA.

The new regulations fall under the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, and her efforts to foster a healthier environment for American children. A blog post by the campaign expanded on the goals of the program. “These policies help ensure that the hard work parents are doing at home to teach their kids healthy habits will not be undone by unhealthy messages at school,” it states. Trading unhealthy advertisements for healthy marketing will hopefully encourage enthusiasm for other nutritious choices.

In her announcement, Obama explained that thousands of advertisements about food are seen by children in America every year. Out of these, 86 percent are for products high in fat and added sugars. In general, only one advertisement featuring healthy choices like fruits and vegetables reach children each week.

The First Lady found this number to be too low, and she wanted to do something about it, leading her to convene a summit at the White House on food marketing to children. “I urged businesses to stop marketing unhealthy foods to our kids and do more to get kids excited about healthy foods,” Obama said. “And that same principle should apply to our schools”

In-school food marketing is widespread. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics examined the state of marketing to school-aged children. Although there has been a decline over the years, the study concluded that most “students attend schools where they are exposed to commercial efforts aimed at obtaining food or beverage sales or developing brand recognition and loyalty for future sales.” Approximately 70 percent of middle school students, and 90 percent of high school students were exposed to some kind of marketing while in school in 2012.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) states that prior to the rules proposed by the First Lady and the USDA, there was hardly any regulation of food advertisements in schools. Only 20 percent of school districts have policies regarding food marketing, and under 10 percent of states have laws on the books. As a result, there is more or less free reign over scoreboards, posters, and vending machines as vehicles for advertising. On top of this, the companies have self-branded educational materials, and advertise with commercials on television programs shown during the school day.

The new regulations are a welcome change for CSPI. ”Given the high rates of childhood obesity and children’s poor diets, it doesn’t make sense to advertise and market unhealthy food to children at all, much less in schools,” nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said in a press release. ”Parents know from experience, and studies show, that food marketing affects kids’ food preferences, food choices, and health.”

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