The food fight is on between the multinational food corporations who are responsible for promoting unhealthy products and those fighting for a healthy food system with minimal negative impacts to our health and environment.
It's no secret that our children are paying the highest costs for our dysfunctional food system. A report from the Institute of Medicine this year found that one-third of American children and youths are either obese or at risk for obesity. Over the past 30 years, the obesity rate has nearly tripled for children 2-5 years old (from 5 percent to 14 percent) and youths 12-19 years old (5 percent to 17 percent), and it has nearly quadrupled for children 6-11 years old! We now know that infants are at greater risk for obesity if their moms gain excessive weight during pregnancy. The number of overweight infants younger than 6 months has increased by 74 percent between 1980 and 2001. And overweight infants are not likely to outgrow their "baby fat." They are more likely to become overweight children and adults. And all of this excess weight puts our infants, children, and adolescents at hugely greater risk for a multitude of conditions, including high blood pressure, heart and blood vessel diseases, and type 2 diabetes which is now the leading type of diabetes in childhood.
Research on media literacy indicates that it takes repeated mental effort to resist advertisements for tempting foods. Because youth are exposed to so many marketing messages and because even older children need prompting to think critically about advertisements, it is hard to argue that youth can consistently fight off these messages on their own.
The federal government in 2011 issued preliminary, voluntary Principles to recommend a consistent nutrition standard for industry self-regulation. The food industry heavily criticized the Principles as too strict and burdensome, even though, if enacted, they would have been entirely voluntary. Some of the very companies participating in the self-regulatory efforts lobbied to weaken the Principles, and ultimately Congress blocked the proposal, leaving no significant federal regulation or even guidance on food marketing to children.Voluntary principles which would reduce profit. What are they thinking?
So now there is pushback against these multinational food corporations who are weakening our youth and burdening them and our society with a future which will be less than it could be. Since minority youth are experiencing the most profound negative health impacts from junk food, including obesity and its related diseases of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, community engagement is being rallied to communicate directly to the youth most vulnerable.
The video above invites youth to question their relationships to food, food access, global food sovereignty, ecological justice, stereotypes, drug use, racism, and more. This film asks them to question their relationships to the systems around them and join a movement. The best chance we have of the long battle to point our food system toward sanity is to reach the youth.