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May 1, 2015
Healthy Heartland: Getting Fargo-Moorhead’s Young People Hooked on Healthy,
Candy, crackers, chips, juice. Products that we know so well and often
associate with the diets of children and teenagers. Snack foods that are supposedly
“100% Juice” and contain “vitamins and minerals” have been consumed and
marketed to America’s children for decades, but are they actually contributing
positively to children’s growth and development? As childhood obesity skyrockets
in the United States, so do the marketing campaigns of several snack food
companies. In this research, the history and present of marketing unhealthy foods
will be explored, as well as possible solutions to getting America’s young people
hooked on healthy, affordable foods specifically in the Fargo Moorhead community.
The necessity for quick, convenient dining in the United States began with
the transition of the United States from an agrarian to an industrial nation and
society. A factory worker in the nineteenth century discovered the novelty of taking
donuts, cakes and pies to work, as much as he could fit in a pale, was cheaper and
provided more food for consumption than eating meats (Carroll, 115). After this
realization, other lunch items such as apples, pickles, cookies and most significantly
–bread—became extremely popular, especially for school children (Carroll, 115). As
children are spending long hours in the classroom, foods that could be preserved
with little to no effort became ideal.
The “snack”, which was once associated with poverty and low-income
households then became popularized by a writer of the time who state that children,
to sustain their strength, should be eating between meals (Carroll, 115).
Manufacturers took this idea to the bank as they began to mass-produce snack foods
and changed the once tarnished image of prolonged eating throughout the day.
With mass production came the necessity for appropriate packaging, which not only
allowed for manufacturers to ensure the safety of their product, but also served as a
silent billboard of sorts where they could showcase bright, colorful designs right
from the shelf (Carroll, 160). This offered even more convenience to the American
consumer, they were able to go to the store, obtain these snacks and enjoy them
within the comfort of their own homes.
Frederick Ruekheim, the inventor and manufacturer of the Cracker Jack was
the first commercial snack food to be sold in packages and Ruekheim saw the
packaging as an opportunity to showcase the freshness of the product because of
the packaging as a selling point. Fairly soon after, Kellogg’s patented a “waxite”
paper that would first surround the outside of their box but then eventually move to
the inside of the cardboard boxes that are still sold today. According to writer
Abigail Carroll, having packaging for these snacks was a very revolutionary idea
because “the image suggests and ensure that the product will arrive at the
consumer’s home new as a gift in the same state in which it left the factory,
unsullied by dampness, dust or a middleman’s hands,” (Carroll, 172).
In order to enhance the visual appeal of their product’s packaging a pre-
shelled peanut company in Wilks-Barre, Pennsylvania decided to hold a contest for
customers to submit a drawing to become their new logo in 1916 (Carroll, 174).
The winner was a fourteen year old boy who submitted a picture of the original
Planter’s Peanut sporting a top hat, monocle and tuxedo shoes, the concept that we
still see being used as the Planter’s logo today! (Carroll, 174)
Other companies, such as the manufacturers of the Tootsie Roll, which were
the first ever individually wrapped candies, marketed themselves as being
completely “sticky free”, perfect for consumption by little children on their way to
and from school every day (Carroll, 175). The development of the American sweet
tooth for refined sugars, however, was a product of the first World War. Being
stamped “W.T.W.” some of the first chocolate bars produced by the Walter Baker
Company were initialed that way to represent “Win the War” (Carroll, 175).
As a result of servicemen consuming these chocolate bars during war time,
that lead them to develop a taste for the products that companies looked forward to
satisfy with other products that would store and ship well such as marshmallow,
nougat and caramel (Carroll, 175). Between the period of 1914 and 1935, the snack
known as the “candy bar” took off and bars such as “3 Musketeers”, “Butterfinger”
and of course the “Hershey Bar” were invented (Carroll, 175). There was a large
demand for these products as 40% of the servicemen’s diet was candy bars outside
of regular meals (Carroll, 176).
The salty snack was close behind the sweets of the time, as during the
depression, cooks would use crackers, wafers and chips to extend the amount of
people that a dish could serve (Carroll, 176). The desire for salty foods stuck
around and manufacturers used dips and quick easy recipes for different party
mixes to glamorize the product (Carroll, 180). The idea of snacks then becoming
part of the meal immerged and appeared more and more in different recipe books
and was heavily influenced by the American Baseball culture (Carroll, 181). The hot
dog was introduced into the American home by images of famed player Babe Ruth
who was said to eat ten dogs a day (Carroll, 181). The hot dog was then put into
recipes like “Frankfurters St. Germaine” and “Franks Mexicana” and thus made a
legitimate dining option for the American Family (Carroll, 182).
The introduction of the television into the average American home clearly
had a lot to do with how foods were marketed but also how foods were being
consumed. While sitting in front of the TV, consumers were able to see new,
exciting foods that they could buy at their local grocery store while consuming the
foods that they had just bought! Ads for potato chips, popcorn and sandwiches ran
rampant and a television ad for 7 UP even went as far to say that their product was
“the carbonated beverage that makes whatever you eat taste better,” (Carroll, 185).
Similar statements to the one made by 7 UP became commonplace in food
advertising. Kellogg’s on more than one occasion made statements that their
products could and should be consumed throughout the day, even before bedtime
(Carroll, 173, 185). In order to support this change to quick foods being eating
anywhere but primarily in front of the television, manufacturers were able to sell
products that catered to their needs such as TV trays and TV dinners (Carroll, 185).
The Swanson frozen dinner was created initially for the easy preparation and
storage of meals for soldiers overseas during World War II (Carroll, 186). Alongside
these TV dinners, TV trays, thermo trays and various other accessories for eating
while in front of the television were developed.
In a sense, it was as if the snack food assisted in the development of the
“American Dream” and made the American lifestyle appealing as the American
consumer could buy these snack foods at their leisure to enjoy at their leisure and
almost anyone could make a living by producing and manufacturing these foods to
the American public. Unfortunately, these foods come at a definite cost to health of
the individual person as well as the environment. With increasing popularity of
snacks, some of these foods began to be marketed and sold to young people,
especially products such as soda.
One twelve-ounce can of soda contains forty grams of sugar and contains one
hundred and sixty calories and almost no nutritional value whatsoever (Nestle,
309). Through the years, production and consumption of soda has come close two
doubling, as a comparison of soda production showed that in 1970 there were about
twenty-two gallons being produced per year and as of 1997 that number went to
forty-one gallons (Nestle, 310). Based on this data, that means that there is 1.2 cans
of soda per American citizen of any and all ages (Nestle, 310).
Products like soda, with many artificial ingredients and cheap packaging are
easy to produce, put into vending machines and sold to schools. It almost seems like
a win-win scenario for schools with tight budgets that could use extra cash and
students that are willing to pay the price of a measly dollar for tasty products. In a
survey done in fifty-five schools across the state of Minnesota alone, 95% of schools
had vending machines accessible to students during school hours, 29% left them
available to students all day long and 15% had them available during the lunch hour
(Nestle, 315). To add to that, 60% of the vending machines were located in
cafeterias and 33% could be found by the cafeteria or dining area (Nestle, 315).
Other than in school, children must have some idea of what products they
would be interested in. Research from 2005 found a significant link between
obesity in children and television advertisements (Dietz, 1652). According to a
study from 2009, 80% of food marketed to children under the age of twelve came
from snack foods and commercials directed towards age groups from twelve to
seventeen were comprised of 66% ads for fast food restaurants (Dietz, 1653).
In a global study that was done in thirteen different countries across five
continents, the researchers gathered that children are exposed to between two and
nine food advertisements per hour per channel (Bridget, 1733). If a child watches
only two hours a day during the prime time of children’s broadcasting, that child
will be exposed to between fifty-six and one hundred and twenty-six advertisements
based on food alone (Bridget, 1733). The researchers state that the most common
food advertisements that were recorded in this study were for sweet products like
candy (Bridget, 1733).
In Australia from 2006 to 2007, foods that were meant for outside the
conventional meal were advertised more frequently at a much higher concentration
during programs and on channels for children (Bridget, 1734). These researchers
also found that it was likely that a food advertisement would feature a “promotional
character” to capture the attention of the young audience (Bridget, 1734). Evidence
shows that there is not the appropriate brain development to decipher whether or
not a food is actually what it says to be on television (Bridget, 1734). The use of
characters, specifically animated characters creates a positive attitude about the
product and enhances the child’s memory of the product and its features (Bridget,
An in depth study was done on the association of TV characters with
advertisements, specifically food advertisements for unhealthy products.
Researchers in this study stated that in the years a child is a toddler they can begin
to develop affection for certain characters and are able to partner them with certain
products if these characters are being used for endorsement (Kott, 571). Studies
also show that foods that are advertised with characters, especially animated
characters, children are able to identify their products at high rates and found the
taste more satisfying than the same products advertised without characters (Kott,
Recently, there has been an increase in products that are being marketed as
having high nutritional value, when this is not necessarily always the truth and
messages such as this are extremely common when advertising products to children
(Kott, 572). Children, however, do not have the cognitive ability to accurately judge
the nutrition value of these products; therefore, the attitude toward the character
shown is the sole developer to the child’s interest in that product (Kott, 572).
During this study, major networks such as NBC, ABC, FOX, CW, Nickelodeon
and Cartoon Network were monitored for a period of three months digitally (Kott,
572). The sample that was recorded by the researchers was five hundred and
seventy-seven ads and almost 75% of those ads were child-targeted ads for foods
(Kott, 573). In over 50% of the ads a trade character, such as Lucky the Leprechaun
of Lucky Charms appeared whereas a licensed character such as Arthur Read from
the television program Arthur only appeared 17% of the time (Kott, 573). 80% of
the ads that featured a licensed character included a health message discussing the
nutritional value of the product compared to 45% of advertisements with trade
characters and 55% of advertisements with no characters used (Kott, 574). The ads
that featured a licensed character were all ads for foods with little to no nutritional
value (Kott, 574).
The information that was discovered by this research is disturbing for
various reasons, especially based on the fact that starting from a young age begin to
bond and develop a relationship with their favorite cartoon characters, who
according to the research are showcased in three out of four advertisements (Kott,
574). The researchers in this study also point out the fact that fruits and vegetables
are not advertised regularly nor are foods with fresh foods within them (575).
Marketing these foods to children decreases their desire for healthy, foods
which can only be supplemented by actions of families and the community. Within
the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Food Systems Plan, there is a massive outcry for
the use of local, healthy foods to improve the health of citizens as well as sustain the
local food security and economic climate (MetroCOG, 3). The developers of this plan
also acknowledge development of a local food system in order to cut down
environmental costs of food transportation (MetroCOG, 3). Increasing access to
healthy foods would be extremely viable for the region as it is placed in the
breadbasket of America and has fertile soil. The group known as Cass Clay Food
Systems Initiative that put this plan together also worked with the public at forums
and meetings and received a warm response from those living in Fargo-Moorhead
Members of the public stated that there should be additional community
gardens, farmers markets and neighborhood markets in areas with food deserts and
emerging food deserts (MetroCOG, 10). Food deserts are regions where there is no
accessible means of food within the immediate radius of the community and
emerging food deserts are areas that are on the verge of becoming food deserts
(MetroCOG, 10). Community members in the local restaurant business made
comments as to how ordering in products from outside the region was more cost
effective for their business, however there was clear support for methods that
would allow for both growers and retailers or restaurants to make a profit
There was a strong feeling that efforts should be made to ensure healthy
foods in areas of low income, near the elderly and minority communities through
community gardens or sites for farmers markets (MetroCOG, 10). The residents also
discussed that in order to sustain the urge for healthy foods, outreach and
education through the schools (MetroCOG, 11). School officials even agreed that
students should be brought into the school kitchens and educated about cooking,
foods and nutrition (MetroCOG, 11).
Data collected by the Cass Clay Food Systems Initiative stated that in 2011,
more than one third of adults in the Fargo-Moorhead community were overweight
and one fourth were obese (MetroCOG, 19). Even more devastating, in 2010 13.2%
of children were overweight and 10% were obese and only 18% of youth in the
sixth grade had access to five or more servings of fruit, fruit juices and vegetables
(MetroCOG, 21). There is a massive support for urban areas in Fargo-Moorhead,
however, there are very strict city jurisdictions prohibiting it form happening and
Fargo-Moorhead growers are preferring to sell their products in Grand Forks-East
Grand Forks because there is more of a demand (MetroCOG, Appendix 1).
So how does one go about making a sustainable, local food system for one’s
community and utilize marketing tactics to grow popularity? First, by studying and
learning from other food movements in other communities such as the La Via
Campesina in Spain which is the largest coalition of farmers’ organization in the
world (188). What this organization is doing is allowing for NGOs, feminist groups,
unions and other interest groups across all beliefs and sectors to come together and
work towards the common goal of having a secure, sustainable food system (Meter,
The creators of this alliance state that the basis for an organization like this is
to provide an inclusive, participatory social base and must represent all
demographic groups in order to be successful (Meter, 188). Once the adequate
social base is laid, much long-term planning, proper timing and methods that allow
for small groups to meet and organize must occur (Meter, 188). Education of the
public about the current food system and how their citizens can change it,
specifically by having in-cafeteria education for children (Meter, 190). Other factors
that need to be taken into account are communication between producers and
consumer, proximity, timing and eliminating unnecessary middlemen from the
obtainment of foods (Meter, 190). From an economic standpoint, the consumer and
producer also need to be in communication about the necessity of paying laborer’s
solid wages for their work as well as prices that will ensure the return of the
customer but also provide for the producer (Meter, 206).
Closer to home, initiatives are being taken by private business owners as
well, for instance the wonder of Lorentz Meats in Canon Falls, Minnesota (Meter,
207). This company, according to the author always showcases clean facilities,
employs 60 people and provides services to clients such as Organic Prairie, the meat
producer’s cooperative (Meter, 208). The Lorentzes discovered that by brokering
their own animals throughout a system of small farms, known as the Thousand Hills
Cattle Company, they were able to ensure a sufficient volume and could brand their
own grass fed cuts (Meter, 209). The Lorentzes also expanded into free range
chickens in Northfield, Minnesota and began to broker similar farms (Meter, 209).
Mike Lorentz discussed that the more a farm sells local products, they are
able to increase the cash flow throughout the region and keep it close rather than
send it further away (Meter, 210) This also increases the accountability for farmers
and producers to have an open stream of communication between producer and
consumer, guaranteeing the best product for the best price for both parties. A study
done in Oregon stated that purchasing food from a local supplier increases the
multiplier of one dollar to 1.87 and further increase of the multiplier can happen by
increasing the concentration of locally owned farms (Meter, 211).
Areas in Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin have created strong networks for local
foods in their communities, however, these states are familiar with agricultural
practices and it has been a product of forty years of hard work and strong
community organizing (Meter, 212). In order to improve food systems in urban
areas, one could look at what Jacky and Dora King are doing with their karate dojo in
Flint, Michigan. The Kings discovered that not only did members of the community
needed to defend themselves from physical harm, they also needed to defend
themselves from economic downturn (Meter, 212). King encouraged the older
students to assist him in working with the land and then learned how to sell their
foods at local farmers markets to individuals as well as local restaurants (Meter,
212). Across the city of Flint, these farmers have put up several gardens in areas
near farmer’s markets so that they can decrease the area between themselves and
the consumer, eliminating transportation costs and increasing revenue (Meter, 213).
As Detroit and surrounding areas such as Flint has experienced massive
amounts of economic downturn with the mass closings in the automobile industry,
accumulated jobs lost are near sixteen thousand in Flint alone (Meter, 213). A
community trust known as the Garden Resource Collaborative has worked to buy up
these plots left over from the auto industry and turn them into sites for farmer’s
markets or community gardens (Meter, 213).
Marketing these products by using the same marketing techniques from food
corporations should be utilized. In today’s world, marketing is beyond what we see
when we sit down in front of the television, a new world has opened up as far as
marketing to children with video games, social networks and mobile services such
as the popular app SnapChat (Dietz, 1656). Because of the ability to customize ads
on Facebook and other social networks through “cookies” which are what keeps the
history on your computer, marketing strategies have changed to provide customized
ads based on interest, searches and posts (Dietz, 1657).
Marketing techniques have become more intricate as the new generation
who has seen their parents and family members work hard to only lose their jobs
has made for a frugal Generation Y. Generation Y has the highest unemployment
rate of any other generation since the data has been collected in 1948 (Acquino, 20).
As a result, this generation is putting off life events such as buying homes and
getting married and are sometimes even referred to as “Boomerang Children” as it is
becoming more common for them to return home to cut costs (Acquino, 10).
This Generation use things such as Facebook, Google, Wikipedia and Youtube
daily, not considering them to be novel ideas but just every day aspects of life,
therefore, this generation has the greatest access to information and is highly social
(Acquino, 22). 58% of those in Generation Y from ages 23-31 own a smart phone
and access mobile Internet either through browsers or apps at least once a month
(Acquino, 22). Because of this access to information, Generation Y is also very
aware of marketing tactics being used by companies and are more interested in
products that someone they know has satisfied with (Acquino, 22).
Friends influence the buying habits of Generation Y more than any other
factor and any sort of endorsement they feel satisfied with (Acquino, 22). “Haul
videos” have increased in popularity which showcase someone discussing products
they have gotten and how to use and utilize them (Acquino, 23). Generation Y is
also interested in companies that will service others not just them, such as Toms
which offers a pair of shoes to someone in need once you purchase a pair as well
and Warby Parker which offers the same service with eye glasses (Acquino, 23).
Based on the information and research, marketing unhealthy foods to
children will hopefully come to a complete stop with Generation Y. Local foods are
able to provide the economic stability that those in Generation Y seek and would
offer something more than just a product to those living in Fargo Moorhead. The
first step needs to be making sure that all groups that are interested in this type of
action are mobilized on the same front, and all demographics are represented. That
way, they can plan and organize to change local restrictions. Individuals are the
one’s that are holding the forks, the pieces are all there, including initiatives in
Fargo-Moorhead but need to be working together to create the changes sought.
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