Event with stakeholders from across the nation will be this Wednesday; Mrs. Obama's renewed focus on advertising targeted at America's youngest consumers has long been planned by her team...
UPDATE: CLICK HERE for links to all posts about the event
Washington, DC - On the heels of last week's debut of her gigantic celebrity-supported Drink Up campaign to boost water consumption, First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday, Sept. 18, "will host a convening about food marketing to children" at the White House, her office announced today.
The 1:20 PM event, led by Mrs. Obama in conjunction with the White House Domestic Policy Council, will include the First Lady delivering a major speech on the topic.
Those gathered at the White House to hear Mrs. Obama's remarks--and for a closed-door meeting with Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass and other Administration officials--will include "key stakeholders engaged on the issue of food marketing to children, including food and media industry executives, advocates, parent leaders, government agency representatives and researchers," the East Wing said.
"The convening’s goal is to create a constructive dialogue and collaborative process for developing real solutions that support families in making healthier choices, including leveraging the power of marketing to promote healthy products and decreasing the marketing of unhealthy products to kids," the East Wing said.
The politically volatile subject of marketing to kids has been on Mrs. Obama's menu since she
first launched her childhood obesity campaign in February, 2010.
Her second major Let's Move! speech was delivered to food and beverage industry leaders, when the First Lady encouraged them to "entirely rethink" how they use their considerable power and billion-dollar budgets to market to children, asking them to "move faster and to go farther" in changing standard industry practices.
But with the fourth anniversary of Let's Move! looming, Mrs. Obama last week proclaimed her intention to re-enter the battle. As she debuted her Drink Up campaign at a "water festival" at a Wisconsin high school, she announced that she will be hosting Wednesday's "convening."
going to keep reaching out to new people and to new organizations and
making the case for healthy choices like water, but also fruits and
vegetables," Mrs. Obama said.
be clear, the First Lady is not against the kind of highly effective
advertising practices that include using kids' costumed and animated characters like
Spiderman and the Power Rangers to woo pint-sized consumers; she simply wants these to be devoted to healthier options rather than nutritionally bankrupt foods filled with sugar, fat and calories.
of the reason she feels the need to throw her considerable influence
behind water, something she admitted is both everywhere and "free," is that
it "just gets drowned out" in the sea of ads for unhealthier options, Mrs. Obama explained.
The renewed push has long been planned by the First Lady's team...
In July, as he delivered a hard-driving speech to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Kass warned food and beverage industry executives that Mrs. Obama will be devoting herself to marketing to children in the months ahead. GMA is one of the largest lobbying forces for the food and beverage industry. (Kass, above, during his remarks)
Kass rebuked the group for foot-dragging on child health initiatives, saying that "food habits are taking the greatest toll on our health."
"The tangible actions from
the industry have simply not matched the magnitude of the problem," Kass said.
2012, food and beverage companies spent $1.79 billion across all media
and internet platforms in marketing to children, according to a federal report.
"Those of us with kids who have seen our kids
begging and pleading for something they saw on TV, we know just how
persuasive these ads can be," Mrs. Obama told more than 1,200 activists gathered at the National Council of La Raza's Annual Conference in July.
"So we all know that the food industry has
some serious work to do when it comes to how they market food to our
But the subject became an epic battle between the private sector, Congress, and the Administration during President Barack Obama's first term. In 2011, an effort by the Federal Trade Commission to get food and
beverage companies to agree to voluntary self-regulatory guidelines
marketing to children sank under the weight of criticism from both lawmakers and the private sector.
In its place, a coalition of food
giants, including PepsiCo, Kraft, and Burger King, unveiled the
Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, looser self-regulatory guidelines that offered standards for marketing foods to
children under age twelve.
Like all First Ladies, Mrs. Obama is not an elected official and thus has absolutely no regulatory power of her own. Despite that, public health activists routinely criticize her for the Administration's perceived failures to reign in the food and beverage industry.
As the spouse of the President, Mrs. Obama has been confined to using a high-profile but fairly soft-glove approach to accomplish her overarching Let's Move! goal of reducing the national prevalence of child overweight and obesity from its current level of about 17% to just 5% by the year 2030.
Yet now that she is unconstrained by worries about things like her husband getting re-elected to a second term, the First Lady's soft gloves may be coming off. But that, too, presents her with a challenge. The private sector has less than three and a half years before Mrs. Obama will no longer have the bully pulpit of the White House at her disposal.
All the same, Mrs. Obama's renewed efforts will be building on some critical successes, something the East Wing noted when announcing Wednesday's "convening."
Last year, The Walt Disney Company unveiled plans for strict new nutritional guidelines for food and beverages marketed to children in its many media outlets, at Disney resorts and
parks, and those sold in grocery stores. The First Lady joined Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger at a press conference in Washington, DC to announce the years-long "Magic of Healthy Living" campaign, which includes promoting Let's Move!.
By 2015, Iger said, "all food and beverage products advertised,
sponsored, or promoted on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior,
Radio Disney, and Disney-owned online destinations" must meet
nutritional standards in line with federal dietary guidelines,
and "promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables, limit portion
size and calories, and have a reduction in sugar, saturated fat, and
effort will include all advertisements on Saturday morning kids' shows
on ABC stations, Iger said; Disney is the parent company.
Mrs. Obama at the time hailed Disney's plan as "a game changer," and she remains convinced that if one of the world's largest corporations can turn Mickey and Minnie Mouse into icons of good nutrition, so, too can the rest of the food and media industries.
Frozen food maker Birds Eye and Nickelodeon children's television channel have also joined Mrs. Obama's campaign, though not at the level of Disney.
"The First Lady has also praised Birds Eye for their marketing and advertising efforts designed to encourage children to consume and enjoy vegetables, including a major marketing campaign featuring characters from iCarly," the East Wing said on Monday.
*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama