Episode 41 - A new kids healthy menu program - August 10th, 2011

An interactive map to display the pressure points of our food system, a new kids healthy menu program in over 15,000 restaurants, and what's next in food product placement? For August 10th 2011, this is Food News Today.

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Good Morning, today's broadcast is pre-recorded, but I will be in the chat room during and after the show. Please sign in and join me - feel free to ask a question at any point during the show. Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting and unbiased food news.

 >Two week's ago on Food News Today we profiled CSPI's Xtreme Eating Awards – and just how unhealthy some of the food is that the chain-restaurants are serving. One that made the list was The Cheesecake Factory... well, just a few days ago, the chain announced plans to roll out a "SkinnyLicious" menu, consisting of 40 items, from entrees to desserts, with strict calorie guidelines. The menu itself is tall, and thin and consists of 15 entrees under 590 calories and 12 appetizers under 490. It is separate from the main menu and is set to roll out between now and the end of September. Perhaps some awards ARE powerful.

 >In Economy & Spending we take a look at Oxfam’s new tool - a map of locations around the world that are pressure points that impact the world's food prices.  Food prices this year reached an all-time high - leading to extreme couponing, smaller portion sizes and a rethink of the shopping cart -- but the price and supply of foods are very seriously contributing to major global political turmoil and sending tens of millions of people into poverty.  Understanding just how high prices have impacted communities around the world has been difficult.  Oxfam has released an interactive map showing how food prices are affecting the most vulnerable communities around the globe.  The map is part of Oxfam’s new global GROW campaign to beat back hunger.

According to Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America,  “food price volatility has pushed tens of millions of people into poverty and contributed to violence and instability that is dangerous for global security and costly to American taxpayers.” The map displays countries that are highly vulnerable to price spikes, have seen price spikes contribute to violence or unrest, or have suffered extreme weather events that have contributed to price hikes.  Take a look at a few examples of what impacts the map reveals:

In Yemen: One-third of the population -  7.2 million people - suffers from acute hunger.  In the capital city, imported wheat flour prices were 117 percent higher in May of 2011 than the previous year contributing to unrest in the country.

In Tanzania: Despite a strong economic performance, more than half the population lives in extreme poverty and is vulnerable to increasing food prices.

In Mozambique: In 2010, after record harvests, Mozambique was still slated to import almost a quarter of its food.  Food prices are volatile because of both domestic production and import dependence.

In Russia: The price of the average food basket went up by 20-30 percent between July 2010 and March 2011! Russian food prices remained high even after the Russian government introduced a grain export ban that led to a surge in prices on the international markets.

And in Guatemala: Nearly half of children under 5 in Guatemala are chronically undernourished, and the proportion of the population suffering from malnutrition has been rising. In rural areas, up to 70 percent of children are malnourished.

>Our health & wellness report this week focuses on kids menus, and an impactful program that is already making a difference. Earlier this week I interviewed Dr. Joy Dubost, the Director of Nutrition and Healthy Living at the National Restaurant Association, we specifically discussed Kids Live Well a project that is currently working on improving the offerings on kids menus across the country… here’s what she had to say…

Thanks Dr. Dubost

 >Advertising to kids has taken a major hit recently, with new standards and many companies simply shifting their ads away from kids. In Marketing Analysis we discover a new Yale University study that indicates that these marketers have done little more than shift their strategies. When you sit down to watch a movie or TV show with your kids, did you happen to notice the cereal or soda the actors were eating or drinking?! Well yes you can believe your eyes, because those companies that have previously pledged not to market “junk foods and drinks” to kids in the form of TV commercials have turned to product placement on TV, according to the study.  As subtle as the message might be, the influence is strong. 

Yale researchers analyzed Nielsen data and found that 35,000 brand placements had appeared on prime-time television in 2008 and that kids see about 14 traditional ads for food and beverages each day on TV compared to one product placement.  American Idol boasted the “most viewed brand” Coca-Cola where kids and adults saw five times as many product placements as they did traditional, paid TV commercials for Coca-Cola products.  These days about one-third of children in the US are overweight or obese. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages and other processed snack foods puts kids at greater risk for obesity, long-term health problems like diabetes, and cardiovascular disease – and long term ingrained habits that are very difficult to change. Next on the agenda will surely be new rules on product placements as well... The study is set to run in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

For Food News Today, I’m Phil Lempert, thanks for joining us. If you have a colleague in retailing, the media or a blogger who would like to also receive our advance story email - please send them to foodnewstoday.com to sign up. Next week’s stories will be in your Tuesday email.