Is Bugs Bunny a good dietetic planner?

She sits there watching TV after finishing her homework. The squeals and shouts of some show on Nick flashing across the screen, her eyes glazed over. Silence and then it starts again as a commercial for a sugary sweet breakfast food with a loud tiger yelling at us, “How GREAT!” his cereal is. Next is a cute baby giggling about something. Finally a fast-food chain comes up with a healthy alternative to their high sodium, fatty and sugary kid’s meal. Then back to loud frenetic hijinks of the show.

So what are we talking about here: TV causing short attention spans, or marketing and advertising poor quality foods to our kids? Both are relevant to parents. The government, led by our First Mamma Obama (hmm kinda like that) is trying to set up guide-lines for the packaging and marketing of food for our kids. Some say our government is trying to intrude its’ way into our kitchens and on our dining tables. They are concerned this is a gateway into controlling what we eat. Rep Fred Upton, republican from Michigan, said, "This appears to be a first step toward Uncle Sam planning our family meals." They forget however, that these recommendations are VOLUNTARY guide lines. Maybe a totally authoritarian government would try to do control our meal time--thus showing where his mind may be.

The commission, a Congressional panel consisting marketing experts from the CDC and FDA, US Department of Agriculture and the Federal Trade Commission personnel, made some fairly easy labeling standard recommendations for advertising to children. Among other things, the commission wanted to tone down on the use of iconic cartoon figures to attract youthful consumers. Of course this is assumes that parents let their children force them into buying what the kids want, and we all know that never happens. Right?

I propose something a little different (I am not the first, but it was hard to easily find available information supporting my idea). Instead of telling marketers they cannot use Tony the Tiger, or Toucan Sam or even Capt’n Crunch, let’s try using the fantastic strength of marketing and cartoon figures to educate and market to kids and parents healthy and sustainable eating habits? Some of the reluctance of major food producers to suspend the use of their animated idols is recognizability. We grew up watching and learning our eating habits from these icons. They might have done a better job---there seems like an epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes over taking our bodies. 

Yet we have an opportunity that should not be wasted. There seems to be a favorable environment for change, or maybe refinement is a better word. Instead of using all the market research and techniques gathered during the past years to sell not-so-healthy foods, why not use it to sell products that will feed us in a more nutritious and sustainable way? We have seen that advertising works and that using kid identifiable cartoons influence the desires of kids, thus forming habits used later in life. This way of advertising has worked to sell food items that are unhealthy, why not use the same method to influence our buying energy toward healthy foods? A governmental agency called Interagency Working Group asks the same question (www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141258532) 
Further, Herb Weisbaum, (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44878241/ns/business-consumer_news/#.TpX3hHPN5l1 ) from MCNBC, asked, “Why is the food industry so afraid of a little advise?” I wonder if there may be a profit motive involved. Is it easier(read less expensive) to make foods with salt, sugar and high fat content?

This is the way I see it. Over the past 50 years, maybe longer, marketers and advertisers have developed data and strategies for marketing to kids crappy food. Now we can use the same force of data and information to start educating younger consumers and their parents healthy foods. Find cartoon icons that exhibit positive models of eating. Use the same screeching and excitement to get kids enthusiastic about apples. Make it look like a treat to have a pomegranate. Sour cream with that baked white potato, how about a pink cuddly character talking about the tastiness of a sweat potato with cheese on it, or a squirrel with its nose twitching having fun chasing green peas around plate and popping them into its mouth? 

I suggest we influence marketers and food purveyors to sell healthy foods with the same methods they used to sell sugary and unhealthy food. Instead of saying they cannot sell “bad” food to kids, encourage them to market more wholesome food. When we show a positive way of doing something, instead of saying, “NO!”, we make it easier, I hope, to change the paradigm and maybe influence the next generation to eat healthier foods.

What do you think? Am I making a sound point here? Let’s talk about it!

On another matter, I did some research on this post, but had difficulty finding information that supported my idea; positive advertising could be used in conjunction with the strategies used with a healthier diet. I used search terms like, “Food marketing for kids,” “packaging for kids” and other variants. All that come up were articles decrying the negatives involved with sugary foods. I was looking for information that supported my idea of using methods for pushing healthier food. Until I found this one article from webmd.com: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20110307/cartoon-characters-influence-kids-food-choices, I came up with nothing. Any one out there have any tips for internet searches that can help pinpoint specific data? Let me know!!!

OLC
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