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More than one-third of kids and teens in the U.S. eat fast food on any given day and there’s no doubt it makes our lives easier. After all, it’s quick and convenient, and we know our kids will eat it.

But when it comes to marketing fast food to kids, companies are spending some serious money— to the tune of  $5 billion a year. Plus, with so many media channels vying for our attention, companies have had to get really creative with their messaging and how and where they target kids. 

Although kids from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are being targeted, companies are disproportionately focusing on Hispanic and Black populations, where fast food consumption is already higher and there’s an increased risk for obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases. While these companies are well aware of how detrimental fast food marketing is, profits continue to be prioritized over health. 

In this episode, I sat down with Dr. Jennifer L. Harris, Senior Research Advisor at the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health. She is also a research consultant and a leading international expert on the extent and health impact of food-related marketing.

Dr. Harris and I talk about why companies focus their marketing on black and Hispanic kids, the sneaky ways your kids are being targeted, and why those healthier options are marketed differently.  We also talk about what has been done—and what needs to be done—to address these issues and what you can do today to change the future for our kids. 


2:40 Let’s talk about your story!

4:42 Why is there a higher concentration of fast-food restaurants in predominately black communities or lower-income communities?

6:01 What does the latest research show about fast food marketing, including ad spending and racial disparities?

9:20 Why are racial disparities a problem?

10:17 What is concerning regarding how companies position their brands and market their meals?

14:16 In what channels are kids being targeted and has anything changed in recent years?

18:52 Some fast food restaurants offer healthier options—has it been effective?

20:27 The UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health recently published a report that looked at the disconnect between fast food companies’ racial justice statements and the unhealthy marketing that persists. What did it find?

22:30 What has been done so far to change how marketers target children?

25:25 What needs to happen to address these issues?

27:38 What can we do as parents to change fast food marketing to kids?

29:50 What changes do you expect will come about after the recent White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health?


Dr. Harris mentions Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D.

Dr. Harris talks about the Fast Food FACTS 2021 report.

Julie mentions Bettina Elias Siegel, author of the book, “Kid Food” and her interview.

Julie mentions this report that looked at the disconnect between fast food companies’ racial justice statements and unhealthy food marketing.

Learn more about the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health on their website. 

Follow them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.


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Author Details
Julie Revelant teaches parents how to raise children who are healthy, adventurous eaters. Through blog posts and videos, her goal is to shift the conversation from short-term, problem picky eating to lifelong, healthy eating and healthy futures. Julie has written for FoxNews.com, FIRST for Women magazine, WhatToExpect.com, EverydayHealth.com, RD.com, TheBump.com, Care.com, and Babble.com.