Chicken Soup Series – Remedies for the Food System: Junk Food Marketing

by ~

Tony the Tiger is cheering on kids as they score the winning goal, land the three-point shot and cross the finish line at the swim meet. He jumps around and gives out high fives as each kid is rewarded with a bowl of Frosted Flakes. “Flakes for fuel, frosted for fun,” is announced as the kids dig into the cereal.

Photo by Daniel Oines.

Photo by Daniel Oines.

This is a classic example of children targeted in junk food marketing. Tony was created by  Kellogg’s in 1951 and has convinced millions to consume the sugar laden Frosted Flakes cereal. For this edition of our Chicken Soup Series, we are taking a look at how food companies use persuasive tactics to convince kids to buy their processed food.
The food industry spends up to two billions dollars every year marketing directly to children and teenagers. In Anna Lappé TEDxManhattan talk, Marketing Food to Children, she calls the advertising campaigns “downright dangerous.” A child who watches a typical amount of television per year will see close to 4,600 ads for food and drink that are high in fat, sugar and salt. Diet related illnesses among young people are on the rise. Today’s kids have a one in three chance of developing diabetes and for African Americans it is one in two. These foods have life and death consequences. Yet, corporations continue to promote their unhealthy products and blame parents for poor nutrition.

Anna Lappe speaking at TEDxManhattan in 2013.

Anna Lappe speaking at TEDxManhattan in 2013.

Many parents try to limit processed foods, only to fall victim to what the industry calls,“Pester Power.” It is a common scenario. While shopping at the grocery store, your daughter sees her favorite Disney character on a box of cookies and begs and begs until you finally agree. Brand loyalty starts at an early age and the junk food companies know that devotion will last a lifetime. From that moment on, the little girl will associate those cookies with the happy memory of Disney.

Marketing also crosses over into schools. Classroom curriculum is sponsored by foods such as the Oreo Cookie Counting Book and the M&Ms Counting Book for pre-schoolers. Lappé says that corporate logos are found in school gyms, community centers, hallways, and year books. McDonalds even went so far as to place promotions on report card envelops, promising kids free happy meals for good grades. With this kind of saturated marketing, parents have little control over their child’s exposure.

Consumers continue to challenge industry to make changes and positive results are showing up all over the world. This year, Taiwan banned all junk food marketing to kids and Maine is the first US state to have a state-wide ban as well. Los Angeles has a moratorium in place, preventing the opening of fast food restaurants in certain low-income neighborhoods. The demand for processed food is slowly shrinking and making room for fresh, homemade meals.

How do you get your kids to prioritize whole foods and limit the influence of advertising? Try this series’ chicken soup recipe from Tom Colicchio.



Our recipe is from TEDxManhattan speaker Tom Colicchio’s Craft of Cooking. “This soup is a typical, relaxed, Sunday evening meal for me and my family. I serve this soup the way my grandmother did, with the Parmigiano and olive oil.  Every grandmother has a chicken soup recipe, so mine certainly isn’t the definitive recipe, but it’s still my favorite, and I enjoy sharing that with my kids today the same way my grandmother did with me.”

Chicken Soup
by Tom Colicchio
Serves 4

1 chicken, quartered, with bones intact (i.e., do not remove breast meat from breastbone, including necks and giblets)
2 carrots, peeled and cut in half
2 celery stalks, washed and cut in half
2 leeks, washed and sliced in half
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in half
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 sprig of fresh thyme
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups small shell pasta (optional)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
Coarse sea salt

Place 1 gallon water and the chicken in a stockpot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer gently, skimming regularly, until broth is fragrant, for about 30 minutes.

Add the vegetables and thyme and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and divide the cooked pasta among 4 bowls.

Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and place on a serving dish.  Ladle the broth and vegetables over the pasta and serve with grated Parmigiano, more freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if desired.  Sprinkle the chicken with coarse sea salt and serve along side the soup.

Brittany Barton is the creative behind She offers real food recipes, sustainable living guidance and inspiration for others to become more sparkly versions of themselves.

Change Food® works toward a healthier food system for people, animals & the planet.  Learn more about Plant Eat Share – planting food in public spaces. For free.