Why did you write Eat this!?
I’ve been interested in food issues for a long time—as a parent of two boys, an active veggie gardener, and in my work, volunteer and writing life. But it was when my first son was in kindergarten that I realized the power of fast food and beverage marketing, even with very young children. The teacher asked them to do a preliteracy project focused on the brands they knew by sight. The children couldn’t read but knew all the fast food and drink logos, could sing their jingles and recognized their sales pitches. It blew me away.
Later, writing What’s for Lunch?, my first kids’ book about food, I began to realize how pervasive the marketing is—from teachers flipping burgers at a well-known chain to raise money for their schools, to fast food Snapchat filters, where teens are turned into brand ambassadors, to free mobile games featuring cereal spokescharacters and so much more.
I wrote Eat this! to break down some of these strategies and techniques for kids because I think young people deserve a fighting chance to understand what they’re being sold. It’s only then that they can ask key questions about whether this stuff is good for them or the planet. Armed with information and insight, kids can begin to take charge of what they eat and also push for changes to the food system so that it’s healthier, more equitable and sustainable for everyone.
What impact do you hope Eat This! will have on young readers?
We know that all over the world, we are in the throes of a serious diet-related health crisis. In the U.S.A., 1 in 5 kids have obesity. Diabetes is skyrocketing everywhere. There are lots of factors involved but the unhealthy food environment is a key part of it. I believe strongly that kids can and should be active participants in pushing for the political and social changes that affect them. I hope that young readers will see the strategies and techniques marketers are using on them and, like Hannah Robertson (an amazing kid activist in the book who spoke out at a McDonald’s shareholder’s meeting), say they’re not willing to be tricked any longer. I hope they’ll point out to their
friends, parents and teachers the new strategies and platforms where unhealthy food and drink is being pitched and call out the companies that are pushing stuff on them that is making us all sick. I also hope that they will begin to see that none of us can stop with individual actions when it comes to real societal change. In order to do the necessary work of transforming the toxic food environment for the future, we all need to come together and insist that our governments prioritize our health over corporate profit. A tremendous step in the right direction would be to restrict marketing of fast food and sugary drinks to young people.