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Food Marketing in Schools

Reading, writing and a candy ad?

Can you tell the difference between these snacks? Copycat snacks are a marketing technique used by food companies to market junk to kids. One version of the product is reformulated to fit school nutrition standards, but isn’t available outside of school. It’s a ringer for the regular junk -- same branding, logos, and spokescharacters.

Food marketing in schools is often disguised as philanthropy, including corporate scholarships. Image from Wilson High School in Washington, DC. (2013)

Another example of branded product sales in schools. Companies sell branded products in schools to create feelings of familiarity with their products among students and build brand loyalty from a young age. Photo from White Plains, NY.

Branded product sales are a common marketing practice in schools. Companies sell branded products in schools to create feelings of familiarity with their products among students and build brand loyalty from a young age. Photo from White Plains, NY.

Another Pepsi vending machine marketing unhealthy sugary beverages at a Montgomery County school (despite a wellness policy prohibiting the practice).

Another example of a sugary beverage being marketed to students at a Maryland school.

Ice cream cones are among the items being marketed to students in this Maryland school.

From a school in Montgomery County, Maryland. The schools have a wellness policy prohibiting the marketing of drinks that aren't compliant with a wellness policy (read: sugary sodas) but the marketing is still there.

From a school in Montgomery County, Maryland. The schools have a wellness policy prohibiting the marketing of drinks that aren't compliant with a wellness policy (read: sugary sodas) but the marketing is still there.

Advertising for Pepsi in the form of a Pepsi vending machine at a Pennsylvania high school. These vending machines are the first thing one sees upon entering the building.

A school in Washington, DC collecting Box Tops from its students.

$1,400 worth of soup to get a box of colored pencils? Considering the majority of eligible products are unhealthy, this isn't much of a deal for families or schools.

Good example of school vending machines promoting healthier beverages. Photo from Hall High School, Little Rock, AR.

Campbell’s Labels for Education program is marketing disguised as philanthropy. Schools receive equipment in exchange for proofs of purchase from Campbell’s products purchased by students and their families. Unfortunately, many of the foods featuring these labels are of poor nutritional quality. And families have to buy $1,400 worth of soup to get one box of colored pencils.

Channel One requires students to watch 10 minutes of programming and 2 minutes of ads each day in school in exchange for televisions and other electronic equipment for schools.

Despite the health risks associated with sugar drink consumption, Sunny Delight Beverages Co. markets sugar drinks in school disguised as an effort to encourage children to read. Experts agree that rewarding children with food undermines children’s diets and reinforces unhealthy eating habits. For ideas on how to reward children without junk food, visit cspinet.org/....

Enlisting children to sell unhealthy foods to their friends and family sends the message to kids that good nutrition is not important. Instead of selling unhealthy foods that harm children’s health, try fundraising with healthier food items or non-food items. School districts have had success with non-food fundraisers, including selling fruit, holiday items and toys, walk-a-thons, discount cards, and recycling printer cartridges: www.cspinet.org/...

Many schools feature unhealthy food and beverage marketing on their scoreboards. Schools should swap out unhealthy products for healthier ones—instead of the Coca-Cola logo, Coca-Cola could feature its Dasani water brand.

This marketing is disguised as philanthropy. General Mills’ Box Tops for Education is a school fundraiser that encourages children to bring in proofs of purchase from company products. Unfortunately, many of the foods featuring these labels are of poor nutritional quality.

McDonald’s is one of many restaurant companies that market to children through school fundraising nights. Restaurants offer schools a cut of one night’s profits in exchange for the school marketing the restaurant to students and encouraging them to eat there on a designated night.

Of course encouraging kids to read is a good thing. But programs such Pizza Hut’s Book It! are more about promoting pizza than encouraging reading. Experts agree that rewarding children with food undermines children’s diets and reinforces unhealthy eating habits. For ideas on how to reward children without junk food, visit cspinet.org/....

Many corporate fundraising programs enlist children to sell foods that don't meet the USDA's Smart Snacks nutrition standards. Yet, there are many profitable, practical alternatives to unhealthy food marketing to raise revenue. School districts have had success with non-food fundraisers, including selling fruit, jewelry, holiday items and toys, walk-a-thons, discount cards, and recycling printer cartridges: www.cspinet.org/...

Even though Coca-Cola is no longer selling Coke in schools, the company still markets to kids in schools on vending machines, scoreboards, and other places.