Food and drink marketing common in schools

Mon Jan 13, 2014 4:10pm EST
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By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Most children and teenagers in the U.S. go to schools that have partnerships with food and drink companies, according to a new study.

Those partnerships include exclusive contracts for beverages sold in schools and food coupons given out as rewards.

"The companies that do the most of this kind of marketing manufacture products that children should not be consuming at all or in large quantities, like sugary drinks," said Jennifer Harris.

"Parents really don't understand the extent of food marketing that's going on in the schools. It's in effect happening behind parents' backs," Harris said.

Harris, from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, co-wrote an editorial published with the new study.

"On the one hand schools are trying to teach children about good nutrition and healthy eating; on the other hand these companies are actually in the schools promoting their products directly to children," she told Reuters Health.

In exchange for selling or advertising their products in schools, corporations will often give school districts a certain percentage of their sales or donate much-needed supplies. Companies benefit by increasing brand recognition and brand loyalty among young customers.

For their study, researchers lead by Yvonne Terry-McElrath from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor surveyed a nationally-representative group of administrators at public elementary, middle and high schools each year between 2007 and 2012.   Continued...

Students have a nutrition break mid-morning consisting of milk, juice, an orange and either mini sausage roll or Vegetarian Italian bagel at Belmont High School in Los Angeles, California May 18, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser