February 2016 Newsletter

Rudd Center in the News

Eater, an online publication at the intersection of food and culture, quoted UConn Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz in a Feb. 23 story about the history of those plastic trinkets McDonald's has used to entice kids - "The Past, Present, and Future of Happy Meal Toys." Schwartz voiced her concerns about this marketing approach. "Why are we marketing to children?" she asked. "Why is it in our culture that we are trying to convince children to be involved in purchasing decisions?"

Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, commented on the marketing of products to children in schools, in a Feb. 23 story in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article spotlighted NBA all-star Stephen Curry's scheduled visit to an Oakland elementary school to promote Brita water filters - linked to a campaign to encourage kids to drink water rather than sugary beverages. Harris noted that there is a lot of marketing to kids in schools, mostly for soda, candy, sports drinks and fast food. While "water is better than all of those things," Harris said, this is still "just pure marketing." The article was republished in the San Antonio Express.

Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl was interviewed by Maine Public Radio (NPR) for a series on poverty and obesity, with the final installment focusing on weight stigma and the effects it can have on a child - "Weight is the Most Common Reason Why Maine School Kids are Bullied." Weight bias, as Puhl noted, starts early. "Preschoolers are already prescribing negative stereotypes to peers who look heavier than they do," Puhl said. The teasing and bias can come from adults too. But shaming often exacerbates weight issues, she explained.The Bangor Daily News also ran the story.

What's Simmering With Our Friends 

Jessica Donze Black, Director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, highlighted the continued support for more nutritious school meals in President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2017 federal budget proposal. In her analysis, she noted that the President's proposal includes a request to Congress for $35 million in grants to school districts for new and better kitchen equipment, an increase from the $30 million appropriated for school kitchen equipment in FY 2016. "Better kitchen equipment means better food preparation, more variety, and healthier choices," she wrote. Her piece cited our study published in 2015 showing that updated healthy meal standards in schools led students to eat more fruit and throw away less of their entrees and vegetables. Improvements in kitchen equipment will allow schools to offer healthier choices.

Carbonating the World, a report that the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued Feb. 9, documents how Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soda companies are trying to make up for sagging U.S. sales by turning to low- and middle-income countries around the world. The report "finds that companies are spending billions of dollars a year in such countries as Brazil, China, India and Mexico to build bottling plants, create distribution networks, and advertise their products. And with that investment," noted CSPI, "the companies are promoting diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, heart disease, and other soda-related diseases to countries already struggling to provide health care to their growing populations."

Voices for Healthy Kids hailed a victory in Mississippi, where the state Board of Education voted Feb. 18 to adopt Smart Snack standards, ensuring that all public school students have healthy options beyond what is provided in the school meal program. Mississippi leaders also agreed to no longer allow school fundraisers selling unhealthy foods, such as doughnuts, pizza and candy.

News to Chew On

The Huffington Post
Global Obesity: A Growing Epidemic
For sugar tax supporters, 2016 may be the sweet spot
KSL (Salt Lake City)
Weight bias: What is it and what can we do about it?
The Guardian
Childhood obesity is a national emergency, says Jeremy Hunt
The Washington Post
Maryland bill would limit junk food in state vending machines