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The way the story of food is told can affect the choices we make.

Grocery store aisle

Activity Overview

Students analyze ads to see what messages they convey about food.

Essential QuestionDownload the Curriculum

How do marketing techniques influence what we eat?

Background

Each year, food companies in the United States spend billions of dollars promoting their products. They use a variety of advertising and marketing techniques to influence our food choices, encouraging us to switch brands or to simply buy and eat more.

The majority of food advertising is for highly processed foods, including fast foods, convenience foods, candy, sweetened cereals, snack foods, and soft drinks. With the heavy promotion of these products and with the added fat, sugar, and salt they contain, Americans eat about 25 percent more calories today than they did in 1980.

Food companies use aggressive and sophisticated marketing techniques to influence our food choices. More and more, these techniques are being aimed at children, who receive a constant barrage of food advertising through television, magazines, websites, clothing, and even school.

According to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the most important factors in rising childhood obesity and poor diets is food marketing. As it states, “While they are not intentionally trying to undermine children’s health, there is no disputing that the goal of food marketing aimed at children is to influence their food choices.”

Today’s students must navigate a world filled with advertising and consumer marketing. By learning to examine this profusion of messages with a critical eye, they will be better able to make healthful and responsible food choices.

Materials

Food ads from magazines or the Internet
Copies of Food Marketing Techniques and Analyzing Food Ads student pages
Art paper and pens, video equipment, publishing software, or other materials for creating ads

Estimated Time

One or two 50-minute class periods, plus time to create ads

Download the Nourish Curriculum Guide to read the full activity.

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