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U of I scientist: Public policy should promote family mealtimes
Date:9/9/2009

healthy meals, they're likely to choose convenience foods," she said.

Inaccessibility of nutritious foods and lack of resources combine in low-income areas to create food insecurity. "The ability to find and afford healthy foods is compromised," said Fiese.

She urged cities and communities to support zoning laws, low-interest loan programs, and food labeling programs that allow families to make healthful food choices in all neighborhoods. Communities could also launch campaigns to stress the importance of family mealtimes and work with schools to promote the idea that families should eat together at least once a week.

Fiese would also like to see policy makers tackle food marketing to children. In 2006, the food and beverage industry spent $1.6 billion advertising to children and teens. Of that amount, $870 million was spent on ads geared to children under 12, Fiese said.

"Young children are easy targets for these marketers' messages, especially when the pitch is delivered by a cartoon character or another media personality they trust. These ads create a demand for unhealthy foods, and parents often feel ill-equipped to say no," she said.

According to Fiese, in the past 25 years the percentage of food dollars spent away from home has grown from approximately 26 percent to over 40 percent. And 93 percent of kid's meals are too high in calories for children, she said.

"But it's a battle because even two-year-olds can recognize the symbols for fast-food restaurants and lobby their parents for items they've seen advertised," she noted.

She asks the food advertising industry to support the recommendations of the Federal Trade Commission that would make nutritious foods more widely available to children and teens. She'd also like to see industry partner with communities to develop effective public service announcements that promote shared family mealtimes.

"The federal government could also use the s
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Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
p-pickle@illinois.edu
217-244-2827
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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