Congress Halts School Lunch Improvements
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed improvements to the school lunch program that included limitations on potatoes, a reduction in French fries served, and a wider use of whole grains. Another change would have boosted the amount of tomato paste on a standard pizza slice to half a cup from two tablespoons. That would have counted as an increase in the pizza lunch's vegetable serving in the federally subsidized school meals program.
However, Congress recently released a spending bill that goes against each of the USDA’s proposals. The bill includes no limits on the use of potatoes. It also does not increase whole grain usage or the amount of tomato paste on pizza.
Advocates for improving the school meals program point to industry lobbying as affecting Congress’ decisions.
The House and the Senate will vote on the bill before it is sent to the President.
McDonald’s and Burger King Avoid Kids’ Meal Toy Rule
McDonald's and Burger King found a way to comply with San Francisco's new ordinance that prohibits fast food restaurants from giving away toys with kids' meals that do not meet nutritional standards. Both chains charge for the toy. McDonald’s said the toy sales will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charity.
“As McDonald’s long has, it is again using a charity that helps children get well to defend a practice that contributes to a range of diet-related conditions like diabetes,” said Corporate Accountability International in the Los Angeles Times.
The ordinance took effect on December 1.
Public Discourse About Childhood Obesity and State Intervention: How Are Parents Affected?
A recent case of alleged medical neglect in Ohio involving an obese 8-year-old boy who was removed from his mother because of his obesity lead to significant media attention. What do parents of obese children think about this issue? How is it affecting them?
“We need to think carefully about how the public discourse about this issue affects families who are struggling with obesity, and may actually lead some parents to avoid seeking care for their children because of fears their child will be taken from them,” according to Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, in a Medscape blog.
The blog is the latest in a series about weight bias by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).
Spring Seminar Series
The Rudd Center has hosted over 100 distinguished experts in academics, advocacy, and public policy to discuss their work and its implications for the study of obesity, food policy, and weight bias. The Spring 2012 Seminar Series will include Jean Kilbourne, Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women, and Edward M. Cooney, JD, Executive Director of the Congressional Hunger Center. The series will begin on January 18 and is held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited.
Rudd Center Spotlight: Kathryn Montgomery, PhD
Kathryn Montgomery, PhD, is a Professor in the School of Communication at American University. She is also the Director of a new PhD program at American University focused on the intersections of media, technology, and democracy. Her research focuses on current policy debates over issues such as privacy, intellectual property, and marketing. She also studies youth and how they are using new digital media.
During the 1990s, as President and Co-Founder of the nonprofit Center for Media Education, Dr. Montgomery spearheaded the campaign that led to passage of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law passed in 1998 that limits the amount of children's personal information that can be collected by online marketers. She is currently co-principal investigator on a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation studying digital marketing practices and youth.
Dr. Montgomery is the author of numerous articles and reports and has written two books: Target: Prime Time - Advocacy Groups and the Struggle over Entertainment Television and Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet.
During the Rudd Center’s Fall Seminar Series, Dr. Montgomery spoke about emerging issues in digital food marketing.
Just Published by the Rudd Center
Least Nutritious Cereals Served Most Often in Ethnic Minority Homes with Children
Ethnic minority families with children are most likely to buy the least nutritious cereals that are advertised directly to children, according to a study by the Rudd Center published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
Using data from the Nielsen Company, researchers looked at cereal purchases by households with and without children and analyzed the families’ race, ethnicity, and income. Each cereal was given a score for its nutritional quality, whether it was advertised on TV, and who the advertising targeted.
Although cereal purchases were lowest in African-American households, the African-American homes were more likely to buy cereals that were advertised to children, which were among the least nutritious cereals. The authors also found that cereals advertised directly to children were purchased thirteen times more frequently than non-advertised products by all households.
“These findings may help to explain why some cereal companies have opposed stronger nutrition standards for foods marketed to children,” said coauthor Jennifer Harris, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives. “Advertising to children appears to be extraordinarily effective at increasing product sales as compared with advertising to adults. We were stunned to find that cereals marketed to children were purchased thirteen times more often than non-advertised products. Unfortunately, since the cereals advertised to children are the least nutritious products in companies’ portfolios, households with children also purchase these poor quality products more often.”
The paper was coauthored by Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director, and Katia Castetbon, PhD, Nutritional Epidemiology and Surveillance, French National Institute for Health Surveillance.
Food for Thought: Bittman and Beverage Taxes
Mark Bittman included the Rudd Center on a list of things for which he is thankful. Bittman, author and columnist for The New York Times, cited the Rudd Center’s research and recommendations on sugar-sweetened beverage taxes.
The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts
Michael F. Jacobson, PhD
Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
Kathryn Montgomery, PhD
Professor and Director, PhD Program, School of Communication, American University