Back to School Sticky Situation #4: Schools as Ads for Junk Food

Semi-truck with large Coca-Cola billboard painted on the side with school children in front.

Photo by Zac Zellers.


What will you do when your child’s school is used by fast food and soda companies for marketing to students? Knowing how junk food marketing shapes kids’ preferences, I have worked to limit my children’s exposure to advertising but have been surprised to see so much of it in schools.

Marketers take advantage of children’s unique developmental vulnerabilities and work to get around parental gatekeepers by using schools as ads. Examples include school visits from fast food mascots like Ronald McDonald and the Chick-fil-A cow, Pepsi scoreboards in the gymnasium, and Pizza Hut’s “Book It” project which rewards students with pizza for reading.

Sample Script

Here is a sample script you can use if faced with the sticky situation of schools being used as ads:

A great deal of effort goes into teaching kids about health and nutrition, but those messages are undermined when schools are used as ads.  As the First Lady said, “Our classrooms should be healthy places where kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food.” We are seeing a rise in both eating disorders and obesity as kids are told personal responsibility is the panacea instead of creating healthy environments for them.

Additional Resources

Advertising in Schools by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Food Marketing in Schools by Rudd Roots Parents

Creating Healthy Schools: Tips and tricks for using grassroots organizing to protect kids from fast food marketing by Corporate Accountability International

What are your suggestions and resources for handling this kind of sticky situation?

Published on: August 22, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Casey Hinds

Casey works tirelessly to create a healthier food environment for kids and instill a love of physical activity. To keep up with what she's doing, you can follow her on Twitter and her web site

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