Standard Setting: School Wellness Policies – Food Marketing to Kids?

by Liz Duda and Dr. Dave Keely

York County, SC (Mar. 27, 2019) Eat Smart Move More York County supports school wellness policies that prohibit the marketing to students of foods that do not meet minimum nutrition standards[1]. This is consistent with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and S.C. School Board Association model wellness policy. Schools teach students to make informed choices about nutrition, health and physical activity; these efforts are weakened when students see or hear incongruent advertising on campus. District policy should support school environments that enable students to practice healthy eating and physical activity during the school day, not influenced by unhealthy food advertising. Policy is one effective way for school districts to help address that 33% of children in SC are overweight or obese[2] which put students at risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and other serious health problems.

Companies market to children, including advertising and placing their corporate brand and logo in areas visible to students at schools, because it works. For example, television food advertising affects children’s food choices, food purchase requests, diets, and health, according to a 2005 comprehensive review by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine[3].  Until about age 8, children cannot understand the persuasive intent of advertisement, according to an extensive research review by the American Psychological Association[4]. To protect children while they are under the care of school officials and staff, school districts should minimize commercial influences.

According to “Marketing Matters: A White Paper to Reduce Unhealthy Food and Beverage Marketing to Young Children”[5]:

By bypassing parents and seeking to directly influence children’s decision making about food, the marketing of these unhealthy foods undermines parents’ efforts to ensure that children eat healthfully[6]. In response to the myriad negative effects of unhealthy food marketing, leading groups have recommended limits on marketing to children. In 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics produced an influential report that recommended a ban on unhealthy food advertising during children’s television programs[7]. The World Health Organization recommended in 2010 that governments set a national policy framework to decrease children’s exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods. And in 2011, an interagency working group of the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of principles declaring that child-directed food marketing should promote healthy products and limit the promotion of unhealthy foods[8].

As an alternative to accepting money for marketing unhealthy foods to children, schools can engage in healthy fundraisers as suggested by Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Eat Smart Move More York County welcomes the opportunity to speak with school district representatives, PTAs/PTOs, and families about ways to combat childhood obesity, including healthy school fundraising options.


[1] Minimum nutrition standards are USDA Smart Snacks in School standards.

[2] Eat Smart Move More South Carolina,

[3] Institute of Medicine. Food Marketing to Children: Threat or Opportunity? Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2006.

[4] Kunkel D. et al. Psychological Issues in the Increasing Commercialization of Childhood: Report of the APA Task Force on Advertising and Children. Washington: American Psychological Association, 2004.

[5] ChangeLab Solutions, 2015

[6] See Marion Nestle, “Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity – A Matter of Policy,” New England Journal of Medicine 354, no. 24 (2006): 2527–29.

[7] Victor C. Strasburger, “Children, Adolescents, Obesity, and the Media,” Pediatrics 128, no. 1 (2011): 201–08, available at:

[8] Federal Trade Commission et al., supra note 3; see also Federal Trade Commission, “Interagency Working Group Seeks Input on Proposed Voluntary Principles for Marketing Food to Children,” news release, Apr. 28, 2011, available at: