Have you read any of the recent news’ reports regarding the study from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity? The Rudd Center gathered 40 children, ages 4-6 and gave them snacks such as Graham Crackers, fruit flavored snacks and carrots sticks. The children were offered the same exact food, just in different packaging. One set of each snack was offered in plain packaging, the other set with a popular character, either Scooby Doo, Dora the Explorer or Shrek.
If you haven’t heard of the study, do you want to guess what happened? Hands’ down, with the Graham Crackers and fruit snacks, the children preferred the snacks with a familiar character on the packaging to the ones in plain packages. Only in the case of the carrots, did the children not appear to have much of a preference.
As a parent of two boys, ages 3 and 6, this study’s results come as no surprise. R, our 6 year old, was easier to shield from marketing and advertising of snack foods and, as I call them, “gunk” food. We simply avoided television shows and other places where advertising targeting young children was prevalent. However, now that R is older and is exposed to more advertising through friends, school and other sources, G is picking up on it too.
The other day I was in the grocery store and G chose Rice Krispies solely because Buzz Lightyear was on the front of the package. Never mind that G had never eaten Rice Krispies, nor did he know what they tasted like, he *wanted* those krispies. In the spirit of “you have to pick your battles,” I coalesced and allowed G to choose Rice Krispies (after all, in the grand scheme of children’s cereals, I think Rice Krispies are in the top half of good choices). However, had he chosen a chocolate, cookie-inspired or other super-sugary cereal, it would have been a no-go.
Don’t you think that the movie and television studios that have already profited from children and families buying tickets and watching their shows, not to mention the millions they have gained from licensing Scooby Doo, Dora and Shrek (as I type this, I note that we have a Shrek toy and a Dora blanket within short range), could perhaps “give back” by limiting the marketing of only healthy foods with their already popular, money-making characters? What if the next popular children’s character promoted broccoli? Sure, there are limited cases of children’s cultural icons supporting healthful foods, but what if was healthy food or nothing?
Hmm…something to chew on for sure.