Our children are almost fifty percent more likely to be obese than non-black children. The Children’s Defense Fund cites two possible causes — physical environment and lifestyle. The physical environment of black children tends to preclude an active lifestyle, which reduces the likelihood of obesity. The biggest contributor to obesity, for both children and adults, is a lifestyle little exercise and poor food choices. One major component of poor food choices is the consumption of convenience foods so it was a bit shocking to read that a Yale study found that fast food chains are deliberately target black children. According to the study, Fast Food FACTS 2013, which focused on the marketing of fast food to children:
- African American children and teens see at least 50% more fast food ads than their white peers. McDonald’s and KFC, in particular, specifically target African American youth with TV advertising, targeted websites, and banner ads.
- Less than 1% of kids’ meals combinations at restaurants meet nutrition standards recommended by experts, and just 3% meet the industry’s own Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative and Kids LiveWell nutrition standards;
- In 2012, McDonald’s was the only restaurant to maintain websites (including 365Black.com) targeting specific racial or ethnic minority groups.
- McDonald’s spent 2.7 times as much to advertise its products as all fruit, vegetable, bottled water, and milk advertisers combined.
Fast food advertisers appeal to our instinctive need as parents to make our children happy. We have to be mindful, however, that whenever we see an advertisement, especially one for fast food, we are being manipulated into spending money on a psychological need that can be met in other ways. What’s more the product that we are being manipulated into buying will harm our children in the long run, the opposite of what we wanted to do in the first place. The study recommended that fast food restaurants provide nutritious sides and drinks and stop exploiting our children’s vulnerability to advertising. When you consider, however, that fast food chains gross billions of dollars from selling junk food to our kids, I highly doubt that will be happening anytime soon.
Although fast food ads are everywhere, as parents, we have two major advantages: we control the money and access. Avoid buying fast food if at all possible and instead use frozen left-overs, quick salads, or other nutritious healthy “fast foods” . Limiting ads outside the home is hard but it is possible. First, we can limit our children’s media consumption and when we do allow them to watch television, we can choose ad-free options such as Netflix or dvds. More than anything just remember that we control the purse strings so it is up to us, not whining, to decide what our children can eat.