Anna Lappe TED Talk: Marketing Food to Children

Marketing execs giving fries to giant baby

It’s no secret: food manufacturers see kids as golden geese. Establish brand recognition during the preschool years, and you’ve got yourself a customer for life! Of course, you’ve also got a nation filled with children struggling with obesity, diabetes, and other lifelong health risks… but hey, that’s for their parents to worry about! Parent, author, and educator Anna Lappe calls food companies out — and calls all of us to action — in a TEDx talk published earlier this month.

TED Who?

For those unfamiliar with its excellent work, TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to highlighting and sharing ‘ideas worth spreading’ — originally focused on technology, entertainment, and design, its scope has spread to all domains of human endeavor. The designation ‘TEDx’ indicates an independently organized event, within the organization’s guidelines, rather than material presented at one of TED’s biannual conferences. TED video talks attract a global audience of millions.

Marketing Food to Children: Anna Lappe at TEDx Manhattan 2013

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bop3D7-dDM&feature=youtu.be]


The food industry spends billions of dollars each year on ‘the pester factor,’ using aggressive advertising to get kids to nag parents into buying junk food. That’s great for corporate profits, but terrible for children and families.

“…. what children and teenagers are enticed to consume has life and death consequences — and when I say life and death, I am not exaggerating… in the past 30 years, the prevalence of obesity among children and teens has tripled. Today, a child born in this country has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes at some point in their lifetime. For African-American and Latino kids, that is a 1 in 2 chance… and it’s not just diabetes, it’s also heart disease and high blood pressure, asthma — even certain cancers.

Because of ad-driven childhood eating patterns in this country, pediatricians are seeing a rise in conditions not normally associated with kids — like young people needing dentures after years of drinking only soda, or leg braces because of obesity-related joint problems.

… And you don’t have to be a parent to have your heart break, hearing these stories — we all have children in our lives who we love.  And we’re all paying the price, in this crisis of mounting health care costs.

The junk-food ad-driven disease-promotic food culture surrounding our children, in the digital age, is omnipresent: we’ve passed the point where simply turning off the television will avert the damage.

So what we’re talking about is huge: we’re talking about changing social norms. But we’ve done it before, and we can do it again…

Food companies say that it’s up to parents to raise healthy kids. That’s what they say; and I agree. Absolutely! And that’s why I say to those corporations, ‘Then leave parenting to us.’ Right?! Don’t tell children what’s good to put into their bodies…

To the junk food industry, I say this: ‘My children — all of our children — are none of your business.’


Watch, listen, and share! Then check out Food Mythbusters for more work by this speaker, and for how to get involved to demand change.

Well said and well done, Ms. Lappe!

Image credit: Creative Commons photo by Joe_13.

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