Papa Glow: Congressman Tim Ryan on The Real Food Revolution
As a new father, I’m finding out how hard it is to control the environment for Mason and Bella. I suspect it will be even harder for Brady, the newest addition to our family, as he gets older. We must talk as much as we can about healthy food and healthy habits to our kids—without turning into boring, old scolds. We, as parents, are their first teachers and coaches.
Unfortunately, a lot of people in the food industry do not make it easy. They aggressively market to our kids. And they market the crappiest food with the most sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other garbage in it. The commercials and the marketing are winning the day. We need to push back. Congress has several times asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to report on food marketing to children. Here are the findings from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity:
Food marketing to children and adolescents is a major public health concern. According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, the food industry spends $1.8 billion per year in the U.S. on marketing targeted to young people. The overwhelming majority of these ads are for unhealthy products, high in calories, sugar, fat, and/or sodium.
On television alone the average U.S. child sees approximately 13 food commercials every day, or 4,700 a year; and teens see more than 16 per day, or 5,900 in a year. The food products advertised most extensively include high-sugar breakfast cereals, fast food and other restaurants, candy, and sugary drinks. In comparison, children see about one ad per week for healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, and bottled water.
Companies increasingly market to young people anywhere they spend their time, including in schools, on the Internet, and on mobile phones. They continue to find new and creative ways to reach children, often blurring the line between content and advertising and encouraging children to send marketing messages to their friends through YouTube, Facebook, and other social media. Food company websites targeted to children usually contain advergames and other entertaining content to keep them engaged with the brands as long as possible.
The messages in youth-targeted food advertisements encourage children to pester their parents to buy the products, promote snacking between meals, and portray positive outcomes from consuming high-calorie, nutritionally poor foods. To children it appears cool, fun, and exciting to eat these unhealthy products anytime, anywhere. We’ve all been on the other end of these requests. Isn’t parenting hard enough without having to do battle with the billion-dollar cereal industry?
Parents have an amazing ability to teach their kids about good nutrition simply by being an informed resource at occasions that involve food. Meals eaten together are a great way to do this, so make it your goal to have a number of well-planned meals together each week.
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Tim Ryan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, at the age of 29, and is currently serving in his sixth term representing Ohio’s 13th congressional district. He serves as a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, the committee that funds all federal departments and programs. He also serves as a member of the House Budget Committee; is co-chairman of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus; the House Caucus on Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery; and the Military Mental Health Caucus.
Ryan has been an outspoken advocate for changing the way our food system works and for promoting real food. He received the National Farmers Union Golden Triangle Award, the organization’s highest legislative honor, in 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2012.
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