If it’s too unhealthy to serve in schools, it’s too unhealthy to market in schools. That was the message on Tuesday from First Lady Michelle Obama, who announced that the USDA would adopt national guidelines prohibiting the food and beverage industries from marketing products in schools that do not meet the minimum nutritional standards for serving to children. In the First Lady’s words, “The idea here is simple—our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food. Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”
All people – especially children – deserve places to live, work, play and learn that support health, rather than undermine it. Protecting our children from junk food marketing in schools is no longer just common sense – it will now have the weight of policy.
The announcement presents a great opportunity for media advocacy. This is a big story – and news outlets large and small are looking for local angles or hooks to use in their coverage. If this development--or other recent stories in the news--tie into efforts underway in your community, the moment is now to submit an Op-Ed, write a letter to the editor or pitch a reporter on a story. Make your voice heard in comments on news stories, blogs and social media. When the First Lady hands you a microphone, step up to the podium!
Here are some news stories awaiting your response:
• Washington Post: In a First, Agriculture Dept. Plans to Regulate Food Marketing in Schools (2/25/2014)
• San Francisco Chronicle: New Federal Rules Limit Marketing of Junk Foods at Schools (2/25/2014)
• Sacramento Bee: Cut Out Junk Food Ads in Schools, Government Says(2/25/2014)
• Ventura County Star: Obama Proposes Ban on Junk Food Advertising in Schools (2/25/2014)
Here are some early responses from advocates. Don’t be afraid to borrow strong framing when you see it:
Lori Dorfman, Director at Berkeley Media Studies Group
“The proposed rules, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” initiative, will help to strengthen school wellness policies, support children’s health, and ensure that schools are a place of learning, not a customer-recruiting tool for food and beverage companies… As the First Lady noted, schools "should be healthy places where kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food." The proposed regulations underscore the government’s essential role in protecting kids’ health.
Miguel Villarreal, Director of Food and Nutritional Services at Novato Unified School District
A longtime advocate for healthy school food environments free from junk food marketing, Miguel tweeted: "I've seen a shift in last 10 yrs on how healthy eating is viewed. New standards released will boost our efforts."
Ana Connery, former Editor-in-Chief of Parenting Magazine
“I'm often struck by critics who say the government should butt out of our lives and leave us alone. If the government had not intervened in the matter of our children's health, I'm not sure we'd all be high-fiving each other about these latest statistics affecting our country's most precious resources. America is a coveted democracy where the individual and the government can come together to find solutions to our problems. Every once in a while when we let that happen, magic happens, and our kids' lives are better for it.”