One More About School Lunches

Should schools be held responsible for helping children manage their health and body weight?   Childhood Obesity, Junk Food, TV: Who’s Responsible? places responsibility on a variety of sources such as advertisers, parents, and the government, as well as schools.  It mentions a campaign that comes from the first lady herself, Michelle Obama.  Obama has started the Let’s Move campaign, which encourages children and families to be more active and healthier.

Let’s Move is trying to achieve that goal by getting healthier lunches into schools.  They recognize that there is a childhood obesity problem and they believe that schools are responsible for children’s health and body weight.  Others aren’t so convinced, as they think parents should be responsible for their children’s eating habits and choices.

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I find myself agreeing more with Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move campaign.  I do think that parents and others should take care in how they advertise to and educate children.  However, when the problem is approached not from an obesity perspective, but from a hunger and food security perspective, school lunch programs become an even bigger player in the lives of those children.

Nutritious, healthy meals could have a big impact on childhood obesity, but they could have an even bigger impact on childhood hunger.  As I’ve talked about in previous posts, 1 in 5 United States children are facing hunger.   There are over 20 million children who get free or reduced-price school lunches on an average day at school.

As such, there are many children who rely on the meals they receive at school.  Would it not be better if the food they are getting is nutritious?  I would say yes, as long as those meals stay free or low-priced.  However, they may not stay so affordable, as healthy food tends to be more expensive.

eathealthy

I acknowledge and agree that parents and others do have a responsibility to help children maintain a healthy weight.  I would also say that schools have an increased responsibility because there is such a reliance on their meals from hungry children.   In this way, I think that schools are responsible for helping children maintain their health and body weight.  With 1 in 5 children being hungry, it is important that their stable lunch meal be as healthful as possible while still remaining affordable or free to them.

WP 5/7

Nothing Can End Hunger

“Nothing is the problem.  Nothing is the solution.  Nothing is the Campaign.”  These words can be found on  Nothing.org‘s website.  The “Nothing” campaign has worked with food banks in four states (Rhode Island, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Vermont).   The idea behind their campaign is that there are thousands of people everyday who eat nothing, and donating to the “Nothing” campaign can help provide meals to those people.

 It’s a unique campaign because, rather than asking people to simply donate money or food, they ask people to purchase cans of nothing which symbolize the lack of food other people have (there is also an option for traditional donations).  In Vermont, the money from those cans provides 18 meals to Vermont citizens through the Vermont Foodbank.  Cans of nothing can even be purchased in local grocery stores.

The video below is from Nothing.org/Vermont.  It begins with a sign that says, “Taste Test Today!”  The taste test is actually a man revealing empty plates to people.  He tells those people that they are going to try something a lot of Vermonters have everyday.  The end of the video encourages viewers to either go to the website or donate directly to the foodbank via text.

When looking at the videos for the other states, the man running the taste test changes the name of the state but everything else in the video, including the people participating, remains the same.  I would consider this to be slightly misleading.

As an audience member, and a person living in Vermont, I would think that the people in the video are connecting personally to the issues plaguing those in my state.  Unfortunately, this campaign is not as personalized as I thought, though the fact that people are being helped does not change.

The different websites also have essentially the same story under the “Nothing is the Campaign” tab.  Each talks about the effects of the recession, and how it has forced people to turn to food shelters.  Some of the sentences are nearly identical, with only the name of the state being changed.

Perhaps it is not very important that the different websites for each state don’t vary much.  This uniformity may even be beneficial to the success of this clever campaign.  Regardless, the message may be slightly misleading to audience members, especially those who don’t look at the other pages.   Does the misleading nature of this advertisement bother anyone else?  Does it affect the message of the campaign?

NP 4/30

IF the G8 Were Kids…

Can we solve world hunger?  Is the problem too big?  The Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign says that it is possible to feed everyone.  “The world produces enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough food.”  This UK campaign is trying to bring that fact to people’s attention.

The next and 39th G8 summit, a meeting for the governments of the world’s eight wealthiest countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States), will be held in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.  The IF organization is taking advantage of this opportunity by creating a video that specifically targets this event.  The video below is a mock G8 summit, but the members are child representatives of their adult counterparts.

The UK representative introduces the problem: 1 in 8 people are hungry.  He is met with little enthusiasm.  The other members say the problem is too big and no one has any solutions.  When they take a lunch break, it is revealed that some plates have no food, some have very little, and some have more than their fair share.  The children then begin sharing their food with one another.

This video is attention grabbing.  It engages the imagination by presenting the information in a unique way.  The video tells a story, and I wanted to know how it ended.  The moral of the story is that there is enough food for everyone, but people (adults) need to be as willing to share as children are.

Using the innocence of children is an effective way to get people to see something differently.  In this case, we are asked to see the world through a child’s eyes.  As a child, I was always taught that “sharing is caring” and I know many of my friends were told the same.  This video is suggesting that, unlike what they teach their children, adults lose the desire to share, or they may not be applying such a simple idea to the big picture.

What is lacking in this video is exactly how they plan on solving the problem.  Are they just going to ship food over to people who are starving?  Are they going to share information as well as resources in order to create a more sustainable solution to hunger?  The website shares this information, but someone watching just the video may not understand the campaign goals.

NP 4/23

Media Marketing to Millennials

Millennials, Generation Y, The Echo Boomers, The Net Generation, The Boomerang Generation; the list goes on.  All of these are names for the cohort of the approximately 50 million people aged 18 to 29 in the United States (some consider anyone born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s to be millennials).  Taking proper advantage of social media is recognized as a way to capture the attention of millennials.  The Pew Research Center has put together an extensive analysis of 18 to 29-year-olds that identifies social media as being important to that age group.  75% of millennials say they have a profile on a social networking site.  62% use wireless internet away from home, 20% have posted videos of themselves online, and 14% use Twitter (see the Pew Research Center report for even more information regarding internet usage among millennials).

For more statistics on millennials, click here.  Millennials present a problem to marketers, many of whom are striving to successfully attract the cohort to their products.  McDonald’s is a good example of a company that is struggling to attract the millennial generation.

Articles (such as this article on Dividend, and this on PRSA) delineate specifics on McDonald’s efforts to appeal to the millennial generation.  According to those articles this well known and highly successful brand has suffered from negative publicity.  This has turned millennials away from its unhealthy image.  Millennials value socially and environmentally responsible organizations and they do not see McDonald’s as a company that embodies those ideals.  Nevertheless, there are many companies and campaigns who are successfully understanding and marketing towards millennials.

HungerU LogoOrganizations are attempting to attract people to their causes, not just their products.   Farmers Feeding the World has launched a campaign specifically targeted at college-going millennials: HungerU.  It is an initiative that is, “…designed to educate college students about the significance of modern agriculture and how it affects the world’s food crisis.”  They are reaching the college age audience with apparent success.  HungerU has a Facebook page with visually interesting and appealing picture posts and a twitter account that is updated daily.  They are using instagram, youtube, and even a text messaging system (which targets the large number of text messaging that occurs among millennials).  Also, it is attractive as a highly socially responsible organization in a way that McDonald’s is not.

Farmers Feeding the World’s HungerU was created with the express intent of engaging college students.  They are touring different college campuses to educate students and start conversations about farming and agriculture’s role in feeding people.  While it appears to be a relatively small movement, they are doing all of the right things from a social media perspective.  They are going to the millennials and reaching out to them directly, and encouraging them to continue the conversation via social media platforms.

This is a message that seems very likely to influence and engage millennials.  The message is designed specifically for millennials, and based on an analysis of HungerU’s social media, it seems to be working.  People are engaging in conversations and sharing the important information that HungerU is creating.

Do you agree that HungerU is appropriately and successfully reaching out to millennials?  What could they be doing better?  What other organizations are doing well with social media marketing?

WP 4/19

Roots

Fighting Hunger with Walmart

Walmart isn’t a name I’ve often heard people associate with sustainability, healthy eating, and community giving.  Nevertheless, Walmart has been advertising for a campaign to eliminate hunger in the United States.  In fact, the website says that, “By collaborating with nonprofit partners, communities, associates, suppliers and our customers, Walmart is fighting to end hunger.”

1 in 6 Americans struggle with hungerThis was a surprising discovery for me, as I had no idea about Walmart’s intent to improve the nation-wide community.  Walmart’s part in this program is in direct contrast with many things that I have heard about the company.

I have always know Walmart as the “bad guy”.  I saw it only as a big company that runs many smaller companies out of business due to their ability to attain lower priced goods that other stores cannot match. I have absolutely no authority to speak on how “good” or “bad” a company is, but what I can say is that I was disinclined to listen to the message because it was coming from Walmart.

That has nothing to do with their ability to create a powerful campaign.  They’ve focused on a wonderful mission and have backed the importance of their statements with statistics.  “According to the USDA, 1 in 6 Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from, and one-third of those people are children.”  The USDA I certainly trust, yet I still can’t help but think that even a campaign to end hunger can be tainted by a name that I have learned to distrust.

The problem here is the source.  I have no hard facts to say why I should trust Walmart so much less than another company.  Regardless, joining Walmart in the fight against hunger becomes difficult when I don’t trust a company that I see as so profit-driven.

People who are not “fans” of Walmart are not necessarily going to be looking up all the facts on Walmart.  They may be going to go off of what they know, or rather, what they have heard, which can lead to the decision not to help.  Should we be questioning the motives, even if the end goal seems so positive?  I vote yes, as we may be pleasantly surprised.

Does the attention and traffic that the campaign will get outweigh the skepticism it may receive?  Am I the only one who would be wary of a campaign such as this being run by a “big-box store?’

NP 4/16

Hungry?

I would consider myself very interested in seeing hunger and food insecurity end.  I know there are many people out there who feel the same way.  Action Against Hunger used some creative advertisements to get the attention of people like us.  That is, people who are willing to donate to a cause that would see hunger end.  The image to the left is one of those ads.

It says, “Hungry? Imagine living on only a tiny fraction of what you eat each day.  Every year, 3.5 million children try – and don’t survive.  You can help prevent this.”  The add then requests that the viewer either visit the website, or send a text to instantly donate $10.  The right corner displays an Ultimat Vodka symbol and says, “Ultimat Vodka is a proud sponsor of Action Against Hunger.”

As an average viewer of this advertisement, I appreciate their message.  I’m interested in supporting Action Against Hunger.  However, when faced with the option of instantly donating, I have to take the full advertisement into consideration.

First of all, pizza?  When I think of people who are starving, I don’t want to give them pizza. Aid that comes in the form of healthful, unprocessed foods provides a sustainable solution to the problem of hunger.  I am absolutely not a nutrition expert, but as an average viewer I don’t think pizza fits the category of healthful and unprocessed.

The advertisement does not elaborate on how Action Against Hunger intends to use the donations.  It could be interpreted that they intend to provide pizza and pizza-like products to hungry people.  The idea that pizza could be a

appropriate long term solution to the hunger and food insecurity problem could be damaging to goal of not only this campaign, but any campaign looking for a permanent solution.  Pizza, planted in the ground, does not grow more pizza, but vegetables, planted in the ground, may grow more vegetables.

On top of that, the ad is supported by Ultimat Vodka.  This is an interesting choice being that vodka does not, as far as I’m aware, provide nutrition.  As an audience member of this advertisement, I find myself turned off to the message because it is being backed by Ultimat Vodka.

Ultimately, these issues may make this an unsuccessful campaign though its creativity is striking and its message important.  Similar images could have been created with different foods and a different supporter.  Those changes would have made it more successful at least in the eyes of this viewer.

Am I alone in these concerns?  Does anyone else find themselves confused by the purpose, or turned off by the implications of this advertisement?  This New York Times article also analyzes these advertisements: Antihunger Campaign Forgoes Images of Starving Children.

NP 4/9

Time For a Change of Pace

I’m going to take a break from talking about hunger and food security issues for this post. It’s time for a change of pace (just for this one post).  Instead of hunger, I’m going to discuss eating.  Specifically, food advertising and it’s influence on eating calorie-dense foods with low nutritional value.  Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior (Harris, Bargh, and Brownell, 2009) discusses the findings and conclusions of an experiment designed to test the relationship between the amount of snack food consumed by children and adults during and after exposure to advertising.

This article seeks to investigate the claim that advertisements that portray snacking and fun will encourage viewers to eat more.   The experiments were performed by inserting pre-chosen commercials into television programming.

For my part in investigating this hypothesis, I watched an hour of television on The Food Network.  I was curious to see what types of food advertisements would surround a channel focused on food.  Would the majority of advertisements be food-focused?  Would those advertisements be nutrition based or would they focus on fun and excitement?

In that hour of television I watched, there were 40 commercials aired.  Of those 40, 24 were nonfood advertisements, 10 were food ads that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits (the video above is one of the commercials that was shown), 5 mixed snaking and/or fun with nutritional messages, and only one had a purely nutritional message.

The significance of these numbers is made apparent by the findings of the experiments performed by Harris, Bargh, and Brownell.  The numbers showed that children exposed to food advertising ate 45% more, adults ate more of both healthy and unhealthy foods when they watched snack food advertising.  According to the article, “…these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences.

The high number of food related advertisements in the hour of programming I watched suggest that snacking behaviors would be influenced by watching The Food Network and these commercials.  Specifically, the high volume of commercials without nutrition-related messages imply that people watching these commercials will be eating more.  People who watch The Food Network looking for entertainment, may find themselves consuming food regardless of hunger levels.

Do similar commercial frequencies hold true for other stations?  If so, people watching TV are, in some ways, at the mercy of the media.  People snacking without hunger can lead to overeating of foods, regardless of nutritional content.  This puts power in the hands of advertisers and maybe even responsibility.  Keep that in mind the next time you see a commercial for chips or candy.

WP 4/5

The F Word

This post is all about the “f word.”  No, not that f word.  I’m talking about famine.

 The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity” is an online advertising campaign that was launched in 2011 by ONE (an anti-poverty advocacy organization).  The video below was created for the campaign, and features a number of famous faces saying the “f word” and talking about the famine being faced by millions of people in parts of Africa.

“30,000 children have died in three months.”  That is shocking and absolutely devastating.  This video is a call to action against allowing such “obscenities” to continue, or to happen at all.  According to the celebrities in this video, there is in fact something that can be done.

Drought is an act of nature;famine is man-made

Let's put an end to famine

They aren’t asking for our money, they are asking for our voice.  The audience is asked only to sign a petition directed towards congress.  That’s easy enough, but there is something I’m still confused about.

This video is extremely attention grabbing.  It pulls people in with it’s aggressive and urgent style, but then this statement is made:  “Drought is an act of nature.  Famine is man-made.”  It is a central part of the campaign, but no one ever really explains it.  How is famine man-made?  Is there even a direct answer to this?

Famine being “man-made” ultimately means that man is responsible to its doing, and its undoing.  If I am to blame for this “crime,” I want to know how to make amends.  I want to understand how I am responsible so that it never happens again.  The audience hearing this message deserves an explanation.

People commenting on the videos are reacting specifically to this statement.  There are a lot of people who disagree on the definition of man-made.  One person says, “Famine is NOT man made. Corrupt governments are.”  Another says, “famine is not man made. children are man made.”  They seem to be confused not only about they vagueness of the words, but the accuracy as well.

Ultimately, this video may achieve its goal of getting their petition signed, but they do not succeed in increasing understanding of the issue, only awareness.  Which is more important for affecting change, awareness or understanding?  Are the two mutually exclusive?  Would the viewers have been more inclined to agree with the message if it had been more clearly defined?

NP 4/2

“Together We Can Feed America”

Recently, Feeding America and NBC’s Today Show partnered to create a short PSA informing people about the hunger issue in the United States, and encouraging them to find a local food bank.  The PSA features NBC news anchor Savannah Guthrie lining up tables, end to end, throughout New York City.

Choosing to have Savannah Guthrie speak this message is a choice that deserves some attention.  Savannah Guthrie is a lead anchor for a popular, national television news show.  The typical audience member would see Savannah Guthrie as someone they would trust.  Most people, whether they should or not, trust those who report the news.  Therefore, people would be more inclined to trust the message being said because Savannah Guthrie is saying it.  Perhaps there was even purpose behind choosing Savannah Guthrie to lead the PSA and not Matt Lauer (her co-anchor).

It would also appear that attempts are made to make this message appeal to a wide audience.  Tables are placed in residential areas, on bridges, in retail areas, and in a home.  Once people get involved, they are shown to be working as a team.  People who appear to be of all different ages, genders, sizes, and ethnic groups come together to help place tables.  These choices serve to bolster the words Savannah Guthrie says.  “Together we can feed America.  Find your local foodbank at feedingamerica.org/hunger.”

GuthrieBut so what?  Well, this message may be of good intent, but what if, theoretically, it wasn’t?  All of those content choices could become tools of manipulation.  The audience interested in messages about how to solve hunger are at risk because of their desire to help.  Someone creating a media message is perfectly capable of preying on their generosity, and manipulating it simply by making a few choices in regards to how they present a message.  It is important to look at everything with a critical eye.

All of these content choices in this PSA ultimately serve to support a positive purpose.  It is clear that certain media choices were used in order to elicit a response: helping to end hunger.  Would the message have been nearly so powerful if it was simply read as a testimonial?  Perhaps in order to affect change, change must be represented by someone we see as trustworthy, or powerful.

NP 3/26

The Hunger Media Games

The Hunger Games, a novel trilogy by Suzanne Collins and a major motion picture, focuses on the life of a girl who is essentially a member of a very low-income family suffering from -among other things- hunger.

The main character, Katniss, is nearly dying from hunger before she learns how to hunt in order to feed her family.  It is a law-breaking offense for her to be doing this, but she’s a fighter and she will do anything to keep herself, and the people she loves, alive.  Let’s look at that message from the Social Learning Theory perspective.

“Modeling” is one of six ways that Albert Bandura suggests people learn how to choose one thing over another.  Social Learning Theory defines modeling as, “watching someone fire a gun or melt the butter to put it on popcorn.”  Modeling may lead to how people understand something, or how to do something.  Analyzing The Hunger Games using Social Learning Theory brings up some interesting things to consider.

For one, people who are hungry might see this as a message saying, “Hey, start fighting.  Do what you have to do to feed yourself and your family.”  They may desire to take action as a result of this thought process.  The problem with this is, isn’t always so easy for people to help themselves out of hunger.   Much of hunger assistance lies in the hands of governmental programs and civil society organizations.

Secondly, this message may encourage others to see hungry people as weak for not doing more to help themselves out of their “situation.”  Messages like this can create a culture around hunger, and hungry people, that can be damaging.  I want to be clear by saying that I am in no way suggesting that The Hunger Games is responsible for hunger, or the culture around hunger.  I am only suggesting that the message the movie presents, and messages like it, may affect public understanding of the issue, for good or for bad.

WP 3/22