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National Restaurant Association - White House holds meeting on food marketing to children

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White House holds meeting on food marketing to children

First Lady Michelle Obama recently commended restaurants, food companies and others for steps they’ve taken to offer more healthful choices for children, but stressed that there’s more work to do.

The White House’s Sept. 17 “Convening on Food Marketing to Children” brought together food and beverage, entertainment and media executives with the goal of creating more dialogue and better collaborating to support families in making healthier choices.

During the meeting, the First Lady cited the National Restaurant Association for its work in addressing the issue of child nutrition, and pointed to the NRA’s What’s Hot in 2013 survey of more than 1,800 professional chefs - members of the American Culinary Federation - that found that healthy kids’ meals are a top trend in the restaurant industry.

“We’re having this conversation in the midst of what I believe is a cultural shift that is happening in this country -- a transformation in how we live and eat that many of us could never have imagined even just a few years ago,” she noted. “I see it everywhere I go all across this country. I see it in chain restaurants that are serving kale salads, and they're filling kids’ menus with not just nuggets and fries, but with broccoli and whole-wheat pasta.”

Scott DeFife, the NRA’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, attended the meeting and said the Association, through its Kids LiveWell program, is helping restaurateurs throughout the United States offer and market more healthful meals for children.

“As consumers get savvier and more educated about food, our industry is more proactive about marketing healthful menu items for kids,” he noted. “Through our Kids LiveWell initiative, we’re not only helping restaurateurs expand their healthful options for children, but also making the healthful choice the easier choice for parents.”

Mrs. Obama urged continued vigilance by the private sector to use market forces to promote their healthful options.

“While we have made important progress, when one in three kids is still on track to develop diabetes, and when diet has now surpassed smoking as the No.1 risk factor for disease and death in this country, then we clearly have much more work to do,” she said. “And, yes, we have made meaningful changes in a number of areas by getting healthier food into our schools and communities, but at the end of the day, if we truly want to solve this problem, we also need to get our kids to actually want to eat these healthier options. And I say this not just as a First Lady who’s been working on this issue for the past three and a half years; I say this as a mom who has been working hard to raise two girls.”

The First Lady told the group that families are depending on them to find ways to bring even more healthful options to market and develop campaigns that will appeal not only to them, but also to their children.

“Once again, moms like me are relying on all of you to actually help our kids get excited about eating that food,” she said. “And that’s why I wanted to bring all of you together today -- because you guys know better than anyone how to get kids excited. You’ve done it before, and we need you to do it again. And fortunately you have everything it takes to get this done because through the magic of marketing and advertising, all of you, more than anyone else, have the power to shape our kids’ tastes and desires.”

Mrs. Obama also said that eating healthfully is becoming the rule, rather than the example for today’s children.

“Healthier eating is starting to become the new norm for our kids,” she said. This is what they’re getting used to and for many, this is all they’ll ever know. And as their palates and their habits adjust, that could have a serious effect on their taste and preferences not just as children, but for the rest of their lives.  It could even affect what they ultimately buy and serve their own children in the future. So this isn’t just some passing trend or fad.”

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