Stop Aggressively Advertising Fast Food to Disadvantaged Children


Target: McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson and Burger King CEO Daniel S. Schwartz

Goal: Stop aggressive advertising campaigns geared toward disadvantaged children

Children have long been the target of fast-food restaurant marketing campaigns, but a new study shows that children in poor, black communities are being disproportionately targeted in advertising from chains like McDonald’s and Burger King. The neighborhoods that face the most aggressive marketing from these fast-food chains are naturally predisposed to a higher rate of obesity compared to white and/or affluent neighborhoods.

Using data collected from 6,700 fast-food restaurants, the study—published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine— concluded that more components of child-directed marketing existed inside and outside the restaurants in disadvantaged communities than in affluent communities, and in communities with a higher population of black citizens than white citizens. Chains that advertised in black neighborhoods were 60 percent more likely than those in white neighborhoods to target kids. The same results were true in rural as opposed to urban areas.

Kids’ meal toys, play areas, TV personalities, cardboard cut-outs, sports figures, cartoon characters and movie stars were all employed at a higher rate both inside and outside of fast-food restaurants in disadvantaged areas. In the U.S., about 13 percent of calories consumed by kids age 2-18 are from fast food and 11.3 percent among adults. It is proven that foods with a highly-concentrated caloric content put consumers at a higher risk for diabetes and obesity.

Consumption of fast food among children has surpassed that of all other food eaten away from home—including food at school. Using the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey, a study from the American Dietetic Association shows also that instances of fast food being eaten at home have increased significantly since 1977 in the U.S., suggesting that rates of fast-food consumption may be even higher.

Tell McDonald’s and Burger King that marketing to children—especially children whose neighborhoods are already geographically predisposed to diabetes and obesity—is not acceptable.


Dear Mr. Thompson and Mr. Schwartz,

A study conducted on child-directed marketing in fast-food restaurants in the U.S. has shown that fast-food chains—including but not limited to McDonald’s and Burger King—unduly target disadvantaged, black communities in their advertising. Black children and children in low-income households are already at a higher risk for obesity and poor eating habits.

To intentionally target a demographic more inclined to suffer the effects of high-calorie meals and less capable of making healthy eating choices is immoral. Your companies are not ignorant to the health effects of regularly consuming “fast food,” and as such, have an obligation to the communities in which they operate.

I urge you to reconsider your marketing techniques to improve the neighborhoods your restaurants are in, not manipulate their most innocent members.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jef Poskanzer via Wikimedia Commons

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