CCFC Files Testimony to Support Ban on Junk Food Ads in Rhode Island Schools

by: 

David Monahan

 
The State of Rhode Island House Health Education and Welfare Committee is considering a bill which would prohibit any advertising in schools for food or beverages which do not meet minimum USDA nutrition standards. While CCFC believes schools should be free of all advertising, the bill is an important step towards protecting Rhode Island students from junk food marketing. Below is the testimony which CCFC and Corporate Accountability International have filed in support of this bill.

 

March 16, 2016

House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare

State of Rhode Island General Assembly

Testimony of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Corporate Accountability International in favor of House Bill 7487, An Act Relating To Education-Unhealthy Food And Beverage Advertising

To the Hon. Joseph M. McNamara, Representative, and members of the Committee:

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Corporate Accountability International thank you for the opportunity to jointly provide written testimony regarding House Bill 7487.

The mission of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is to support parents’ efforts to raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children and ending the exploitive practice of child-targeted marketing. We are a national non-profit headquartered in Boston, and more than 200 Rhode Island residents are members of our organization and support our mission. CCFC advocates for commercial-free schools.

Corporate Accountability International (CAI) is a member-powered organization that has, for over 39 years, successfully advanced campaigns protecting health, the environment, and human rights. CAI’s Value [the] Meal campaign is dedicated to reversing the global epidemic of diet-related disease by challenging the fast food industry to curb a range of its practices. CAI has 200 members and 984 online supporters in the state of Rhode Island.

CCFC and CAI heartily endorse House Bill 7487 because it provides much-needed protections for the wellbeing of children. 

Schools should be free of all marketing. Children are a captive audience in school—they cannot “change the channel” or turn off advertising. Young children are already developmentally vulnerable to marketing messages, and anything advertised in a school comes with the powerful endorsement of the school or faculty. Marketing also undermines education’s vital mission to promote critical thinking skills. Advertising promotes decision-making based on emotional attachments to brands and exploits children’s developmental vulnerabilities, such as susceptibility to peer pressure.

Corporations commonly prey upon these vulnerabilities and market in schools to encourage children to consume their brands, and to try to create brand loyalty for life when children are young and impressionable. 

Advertising at school is especially harmful when it encourages children to eat unhealthful food and beverages. Lessons on good nutrition delivered by teachers and parents are undermined when ads at school encourage kids to eat junk food. We are in the midst of the largest preventable health crisis in the U.S.—one that is spreading throughout the world, and that increasingly affects children. If this trend is not reversed, many children will be burdened with diet-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, affecting their heath for life. Health professionals on the front lines of treating these diseases have long urged that sellers of junk food stop targeting children. The World Health Organization1 and the American Academy of Pediatrics2 recommend restrictions on junk food marketing to children. Studies from esteemed organizations such as the Institute of Medicine3 and the National Bureau of Economic Research4 suggest that junk food marketing targeted at kids is a serious health concern.

House Bill 7487 goes right to the heart of the matter, and Rhode Island students will be well-served by its protections. If a food or beverage is not healthy enough to be served to students in school, then ads at school should certainly not encourage children to consume that product. The language of the bill is appropriately broad in prohibiting all forms of advertising, as well as participation in corporate incentive programs and fundraisers that rely on the promotion of junk food. 

We would respectfully request one revision to the bill’s exception for “[a]dvertising on clothing with brand images worn on school grounds.” We believe such an exception is only appropriate for clothing worn by students. Clothing worn by teachers and administrators should certainly remain free of any brand image for unhealthy foods or beverages, since, as stated above, displaying such images could be seen by students as an endorsement of the product.

This legislation can have an important beneficial impact on the wellbeing of Rhode Island children, and CCFC and CAI strongly support its passage. Thank you again for the opportunity to provide this testimony.

 

Sincerely,

 

Josh Golin
Executive Director          
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood 

 

Sriram Madhusoodanan
Director 
Value [the] Meal campaign 
Corporate Accountability International

 


1. “Set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children,” World Health Organization, 2010, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44416/1/9789241500210_eng.pdf (accessed March 16, 2016).
2. Committee on Communications, “Children, Adolescents, and Advertising,” Pediatrics 95, no. 2 (February 1, 1995), 295–97, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/95/2/295 (accessed March 16, 2016).
3. Dan Glickman et al., “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation,” Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2012, http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2012/APOP/... (accessed February 26, 2015).
4. Chou et al., “Fast-Food Restaurant Advertising on Television and its Influence on Childhood Obesity,” National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2005, http://www.nber.org/papers/w11879.pdf?new_window=1 (accessed March 16, 2016).

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