Yesterday, the European Union Agriculture Commissioner launched a healthy eating program for kids throughout the EU.
According to coverage from the CBC, the EU estimates that 22 million European children who are overweight, and five million are obese. (That's one overweight child for every 22.7 people, versus the United States' one in every 12.2.)
Here's the EU's own description of the program (note targetted countries):
The Healthy Eating Campaign will run alongside the EU’s School Fruit Scheme and School Milk Scheme – important initiatives for a more balanced diet and healthier eating habits amongst children.
The Healthy Eating Campaign takes the message: Eat it, Drink it, Move it right into schools. Over the course of eight weeks, the roadshow will travel through Belgium, France, the UK, Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. Each roadshow will visit two schools a day. In total the healthy eating activities will reach 18 000 kids in 180 schools. The message to deliver is: Eat well, because it’s fun to be fit.
In parallel with the roadshow, an interactive treasure hunt game will be running over the 8 weeks on the EU's Tasty Bunch web site, where all EU schoolchildren aged 8 to 15 could try to win a number of sports items.
A recent Eurobarometer survey showed three quarters of respondents “totally agreeing” that “there seem to be more overweight children these days than five years ago". Indeed, around 22 million kids are overweight in the EU, of which 5 million are obese.
As a social marketer, I applaud this effort to put nutritional information in children's hands. But as a parent, I doubt it will have much impact.
I strongly believe that healthy eating habits start at home, by ensuring your child is exposed to a wide variety of tasty and healthy homemade foods, and teaching them some basic cooking skills. This helps set their appetites in the right direction, and I hope that making my son a foodie from a young age will provide some protection from the endless temptations of junk food once he's "out there" on his own.
I could be overconfident about how well my clever plan will work in the long run, but regardless I think that campaigns for healthier eating at school are doomed if the kids go home to crappy convenience food every night. If all you eat is sugar, salt and fat, everything else is going to taste less appealing.
What do you think?