Education on Healthy Eating Dwarfed by Junk Food Advertising

Geoff SimmonsHealth

When it comes to obesity the mantra from the Government – echoed by former ACT leader Jamie Whyte on The Nation over the weekend – has been that people should make an informed choice. Even if this is true for adults (which is questionable) should the same idea apply to kids?

The Child Obesity Package

It came as no surprise that Coca Cola Coleman didn’t want to slap a junk food tax on his the food industry. The Minister protested that taxes aren’t 100% ‘proven’; yet we know that a junk food tax would make much more of a difference to child obesity than anything in the package he released last week. The fact that the package was cheered by the food industry is sure sign it must be toothless.

Education Education Education

Surely if the Government believes their own dogma that people should make an informed choice, shouldn’t they be doing something to educate kids about healthy eating? There is nothing in the Minister’s package to deliver on this.

Sure, the Active Families programme will work with families that have obese children. However, this package focusses on exercise (which is only 20% of the problem) and only works for a proportion of families (roughly 1 in 10). The fact is that waiting until a child is obese before acting is too late. Something more comprehensive is needed.

We have education programmes that work, like Project Energize in the Waikato, yet this has not been rolled out across the country. We also have leading examples of schools that can show others the way, like Rhodes St school in Hamilton.

Incredibly, we have healthy food policies in our DHBs where the sick kids are but not where the healthy kids are – in our schools.

Surely it is up to parents?

Some argue it is up to parents to educate their kids.

As we have discussed previously, around half of Kiwi adults are confused about how to eat healthily. Of the remainder, many of those who think they know how to eat healthily don’t. We have lost our healthy eating culture, so by leaving it up to parents we will just see the cycle of obesity and diabetes continue. We need to break the cycle, and fast, before our hospitals are overrun.

We also know that as children grow older, parents lose control over what they eat. On average this happens around the age of 7 – do you really think that kids can make an informed choice by that age?

Even before the age of seven, kids can get junk food from many sources other than their parents – from creche, after school care, parties, even the doctor. You’ll be surprised how much sugar children can get from these sources. Parents can’t be everywhere watching everything all the time.

And it is not like we make it easy for parents. Instead of educating the kids and the parents to make an informed choice, they are bombarded with misinformation and influence by the food industry.

Junk food adverts to kiddies

If we think kids can make an informed choice, why do we let the junk food industry target advertising at them?

If it is up to parents to decide, again why do we let the junk food industry target advertising at kiddies?

Either way, it makes no sense. There is no possible rationale why targeting junk food advertising at kids is a good idea. Except of course, that the food industry want to do it, because it helps them sell their junk food.

It is time to ban junk food marketing to kids across the board.

Education on Healthy Eating Dwarfed by Junk Food Advertising was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Geoff Simmons
About the Author

Geoff Simmons

Facebook Twitter

Geoff Simmons is an economist working for the Morgan Foundation. Geoff has an Honours degree from Auckland University and over ten years experience working for NZ Treasury and as a manager in the UK civil service. Geoff has co-authored three books alongside Gareth.