School Wellness Policies Proposed by First Lady & USDA around marketing to children

Back when the USDA Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was enacted in 2010, school districts were mandated to create local wellness policies to address nutrition education and physical activity standards. Just recently, the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama announced that these policies being developed by districts across the country should also focus on health messaging and the removal of junk food marketing in classrooms and cafeterias at schools - targeted of course to children. Locally, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has developed and approved a local wellness policy (contact staff listed on their website to learn more about the policy).

The focus on marketing to children has been percolating up through many different food justice efforts. This week this announcement by USDA and the the First Lady, along with a recent blog by Mark Winne that also explores the importance of marketing towards children, further emphasizes the need to address these issues in advertising. Winne discusses how impactful certain moves in the food justice arena are on actually improving health outcomes and states, "Terminating the advertising of junk food to children, valued at $4.6 billion annually according to Yale University’s Rudd Center, would also have a marked effect on childhood weight which, if kept at healthy levels in youth would be a lesser problem in adulthood. Yet, our policymakers have generally proven gutless when asked to stand up to Big Sugar and Big Fat." According to Sustainable Table's Food Marketing Factsheet, marketers spend $80 million a year on in-school marketing).

With many health initiatives functioning at the same time across Cuyahoga County, food marketing to children could be addressed through the wellness policy coming out of the school district and even our Healthy Cleveland Resolution.

For more on food marketing to children, see the Harvard School of Public Health's summary