Knowing where your food comes from is one of our mantras, but that dedication to health doesn’t necessarily work if you know that your food comes from a fast food restaurant! In 2007, major fast food establishments and drink companies, including McDonald’s promised to reduce and reform child-targeted marketing and advertising to children under 12.
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This year, Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity performed a study that takes a look at the state of the industry and their marketing and advertising activities directed toward young consumers. Despite alleged industry efforts, fast food advertising targeting the 2 to 18 year-old audience actually increased.
The study took a look at Burger King, Dairy Queen, Domino’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. Research on everything from consumer behavior to external advertising and from in-store marketing to menu composition. The findings (the industry spent $4.2 billion in 2009) did not support the fast food restuarant industry’s pledge to decrease their pursuit of the youth market.
The advertisements are working! 40% of parents reported that their child asked to go to McDonald’s at least once a week, and 15% of preschoolers’ parents said they fielded such a request every day. Most on-the-go parents relented: 84% reported bringing their 2-to-11-year-olds to a fast food restaurant on a weekly basis.
This disturbing quick-fix meal trend is exacerbated by the fact that 16% to 17% of adolescents’ caloric intake came from fast food restaurants! Teens average order racked up 800 to 1,100 calories in just one meal! NOTE: the study failed to mention that as a child, I pointed out every one of the McDonald’s Golden Arches that we passed on the highway, whether I was hungry or not – my parents did not stop. How did Yale miss that vital fact?
While there are many efforts to counteract the fast food trend from healthy menu alternatives, to activists like Chef Jamie Oliver and First Lady Michelle Obama, the truth is that until we care enough to know where our food comes from, we will be as slow to change as the fast food industry itself.