Eat This! Marketing Junk Food to Children and Teens

Cindy: New Year’s healthy eating resolutions usually start to flag by February, so it’s perfect timing for us to share a 2018 title that’s a great fit for Booklist‘s Spotlight on Health & Wellness. Eat This! How Fast Food Marketing Gets You to Buy Junk (and How to Fight Back) by Andrea Curtis offers lessons about healthy diets and marketing, focusing on the ways children and teens are often the unsuspecting targets. Fast food tempts most of us due to our hectic schedules, whether we’re lured by the promise of hot, crispy french fries or worn down by begging from the backseat. It’s an easy meal that’s cheaper than buying fresh vegetables in many areas.

Eat This!: How Fast Food Marketing Gets You to Buy Junk (And How To Fight Back) by Andrea Curtis

Children and even teens aren’t fully aware of the marketing measures directed at their important demographic. Companies spend five BILLION dollars a year in fast-food marketing in the US alone—as if our cravings for sugar, fat, and salt weren’t enough to fend off! Branded filters in Snapchat, wacky commercials on YouTube, and advertisements on Facebook all target young audiences in particular, but so do company-spokesperson cartoon characters, meals with toys included, and prizes in cereal boxes.

Curtis presents information about what is in junk food, what the health risks are, and the resulting environmental costs. She also illuminates marketing tricks such as food photography and ad placement in video games, TV shows, and movies. From its attractive cover (Don’t you just want to bite that doughnut or burger?) to its spacious layout, the contents of this thin book may help reduce the expanding waistlines of our youth.

Lynn: I love how Curtis talks directly to kids while also managing to respect them and relate to them. She never talks down, and she doesn’t pull any punches, either. Early in the book, she introduces nine-year-old Hannah Robertson, who stood up at a McDonald’s annual meeting and called out the head of the fast-food company for the marketing technique of using toys and cartoon mascots. And if anyone had any doubts about the impact of “kidvertising” and processed foods, Curtis provides some sobering information. With an improving economy, Brazil has been the target of a fast-food advertising blitz since 2003; now that Brazilians have embraced fast food, one in three Brazilian children is overweight.

The information Curtis presents is as eye-opening as it is horrifying, but the real strength of this pithy book is that it is also a practical manual on how kids can fight back. Understanding the power of marketing is the first step and Curtis urges kids to ask tough questions about marketing strategies. Are we merely being entertained, or are we being manipulated to buy things that are bad for our bodies and the environment? She urges us to reclaim our food and provides some very easy activities to help kids get involved in “challenging the fast food culture and marketing strategies.” Additional back matter includes a glossary, a list of sources, and a wonderful interview with the author.

As Curtis points out in the chapter titled “Pester Power,” kids have influence over the foods their parents buy, and this book does a great job of helping to educate a much more savvy generation of consumers.


About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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