Marketing Food to Kids (and how I’m a bit of a sucker myself)

Just about every other Monday I do a “big shop” at Safeway. I go right after I drop Devon at school at 7:45 AM (we have issues getting the bus–lame, I know). It’s always quiet and the lines are short, which is perfect because I really don’t enjoy shopping.

Except, I now find it a little thrilling.

“Why?” you ask. Well, let me tell you: Safeway tells me how much money I saved on my receipt, and I’m a sucker for that particular marketing ploy.

Holy Cow! I saved $83.71!!!

Holy Cow! I saved $83.71!!!

I’ve never been organized enough to be a coupon clipper, but I do like me some Internet, so Safeway’s JustForU program is something I actually do. I get online, transfer the latest online coupons and some personalized offers to my Safeway card, and then I head to the store. When I check out, I swipe my card and the magical checkout machine automatically deducts my bill.

Anyway, it seems like I save myself between 30-40% off my bill when I go, and today was no different: 33%

Of particular note this week: A $10 off coupon for spending $100 or more, which is easy when I’m buying a 6 pack of wine–the quantity more than justified by the 10% volume discount 🙂

TIP: Only buy stuff you’re going to eat. Seems like that’s obvious. My personalized deals include fruits and veggies, I think because the magical Big Brother data they have on me told them that’s what I tend to buy.

[For my friends in the beautiful Methow Valley–where there is no Safeway (but the Winthrop Red Apple, Glover Street Market, and Hanks Harvest Foods are excellent)–I’m sorry the first part of my blog is useless]

Anyway, on the subject of marketing ploys, yesterday Devon and I watched this great TEDx video presentation by Anna Lappé, director of the Real Food Media Project. Ms. Lappé (can I call her Anna?) talks about the insidious ways the junk food industry markets food to kids. If you have fifteen minutes to spare, please consider checking it out:

My interpretation of the message to the junk food industry is this:

Don’t target junk food to our kids.
Stop telling them to eat your crappy food. It’s not good for them.
And furthermore, junk food industry, what I feed my kids is none of your damned business. So there.

Of course, I did a little googling for research. The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale provides some pretty solid information on the effects of food marketing on kids, including the impact on brand preferences and long-term health. Here are some statistics:

  • the food industry spends $1.8 billion a year marketing food to kids
  • the average American kid sees 4700 food commercials a year
  • the food products advertised the most are sugary beverages, high-sugar breakfast cereals, and fast food
  • kids see only about one ad per week for healthy foods and water

I watched the video with Devon because I want to teach her how to recognize when she’s being manipulated. I want her to question the motives of whoever is trying to convince her to do something, so she can make her own decisions. Those are good skills to have, whether it’s:

  • junk food marketing (MOTIVE: $$$$$$)
  • some kid trying to convince you to aid and abet a cheating scheme (MOTIVE: they didn’t study and are willing to risk getting you in trouble to save their own hides)
  • or your mom telling you to do your homework and eat right (MOTIVE: she loves you and she’s definitely not a control freak)

Anyway, Devon liked the video, and we thought her Media Studies teacher might like it too so we forwarded it to her.

But then, this morning when I told Devon I was going to Safeway, she asked for Fruit Loops 😉

Dang it.

[But then she asked for apples] [but then marshmallows] [and heavy whipping cream].

I love you Munchkin 🙂

By Tracey March

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