Grab a Seat and Listen In! Live Chat Recap

Bring the real time conversation right to your screen! Listen in as WhyHunger’s Siena Chrisman hosted a lively discussion with Anna Lappé, director of the Real Food Media Project and Michele Simon, president of Eat Drink Politics on Friday, November 22nd via live Google+ hangout.

The conversation focused on corporate food marketing to youth and kids, especially youth of color, industry tactics, including “philanthro-marketing,” voluntary self-regulation and how to respond to the most pervasive industry talking point: “it’s all up to parents.” To listen in on the conversation, see the guide below on the discussion and themes to help you find your place, download resources and take action.

Watch the live Google+ hangout chat here!

Take Action with Food MythBusters and Corporate Accountability International

Download resources for parents, policy-makers and youth

     Discussion guide recap:

4:35 | How pervasive is this marketing to kids, how early does it start? Can you walk us through some specific examples? 

“For me one of the biggest areas of concern is this vast terrain of children’s lived experience in social media, online, with apps – kids are interacting with screens all the time now and that means their exposure to marketing is universal, too.” -Anna Lappé

10:00 | How has this advertising has changed because of social media? How have marketers targeted specific groups?

  • building brand loyalty young
  • emphasis on data collection
  • online websites, advergames
  • race-based targeted marketing

“It’s extraordinarily exploitative, these are the same communities that often have the highest levels of free and reduced lunch and summer food service program as well as having fewer grocery stores and poor food access. So it seems as if the marketing of cheap, unhealthy food in places where food and money are scarce takes advantage of the various challenges these communities have — it takes advantage of poverty in order to grow market share and build long-term customers.” – Siena Chrisman

17:33 | Drawing on the links between food access and nutrition, how does this connect with food marketing? How do we un-silo food movement focus areas to bring these issues together in a more coordinated way?

20:17 | Industry tactics: What does the industry say when they’re criticized for excessive food marketing to kids? What is their response, what are we dealing with?

  • Voluntary regulation
  • First amendment rights

“The answer to the first amendment conundrum is simply that children are too young to understand what marketing is. There is no first amendment right to engage in deceptive marketing and marketing to children is inherently deceptive because they’re too young to understand that they’re being marketed to.” – Michele Simon

  • Parental responsibility: the “it’s parents’ job” response

On industry and parental responsibility: “That is industry’s trump card and the most effective one. That is the most common refrain, that ‘it’s a parents’ job.’ It’s not either/or. I don’t know why in this country we have such a hard problem holding two ideas in our heads at once. It can be both the parent’s responsibility and we have to ask the question what broader role does society have in helping parents do their job and do the best they can to protect their children. There are all kinds of ways that we protect children as a society because we recognize that parents can’t do it alone, that we have a collective responsibility. Of course, all of these things can be true at once.” – Michele Simon

25:04 | Why don’t we just put more effort into marketing healthy food? How does industry use the first amendment as a political shield?

26:30 | What is charity marketing/philanthro-marketing, and how is it a ‘corporate social responsibility’ tactic? Are these programs effective fundraising tools for schools and organizations?

  • PTAs pushing to use My CokeRewards for fundraising
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities (29:11)
  • McTeachers Night (31:30)

32:30 | Do pouring contracts still exist in schools? And if so, why haven’t they been outlawed?

34:45 | Could government be more useful in regulation? And what would it really take for that to happen?

  • Local level: example of school districts and cities that have policies in place to improve school meals and vending machine policies.
  • State level: have seen some movement, but national level is more challenging; we’re in an age of deregulation.

37:30 | What role does food education and media literacy play?

40:42 | How does marketing to kids tie into broader food system trends? How can this issue tie into an organizing strategy for the broader food movement? 

“I would really like to see the food movement broaden its horizons, whether they’re fighting companies on the production end or the marketing end. And similarly, I’d like to see groups that tend to have a narrow frame around marketing only caring about nutrition, thinking that it’s all just a matter of grams of salt, sugar and fat, when really we have a much bigger problem with our food system. Connecting these dots are realizing that we’re fighting many of the same players and really going after these issues in a much deeper way that gets people to make these connections and hopefully build a stronger movement.” -Michele Simon

” It’s so important to talk about marketing to kids as part of our overall strategy as a movement because this targeted marketing is just one of the ways the food industry is expanding its market share, along with the lobbying it does on Capitol Hill. If we want to be strategic and effective, we can’t do that unless we’re also talking about marketing.” -Anna Lappé

43:02 | How can young people can get engaged in this issue?

45:50 | Wondering how to get involved?

Organizations: Corporate Accountability International Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood Find groups that are working on this in your own community locally

Get engaged in a way that’s meaningful to you:

  • Start where you live
  • Talk to other parents
  • Try to change the conversation
  • Working to make access to fresh food available to everyone
  • Give of your time or your money
  • No shortage of ways to get involved!

“Talking about this issue is a way to engage young people in this conversation. When you start talking about marketing to kids — kids know what you’re talking about because they’ve been marketed to. I’ve seen so many young people get engaged on this issue and get involved.” – Anna Lappé

TAKE ACTION: Shut down – sign the petition at!

Upcoming Day of Action with Corporate Accountability International, Food MythBusters and allies: follow #MomsNotLovinIt on twitter for more details

Reports and Resources:

Learn about related structural and policy issues on the WhyHunger Food Security Learning Center

Watch Food MythBusters’ short video on the Myth of Choice and junk food marketing to kids

Read Michele Simon’s Eat Drink Politics blog and book, Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back

For parents and policy-makers:

Race-based targeted marketing reports and resources:

Comparisons with the Tobacco Industry:

Resources for Youth:

Christina Bronsing