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Ready 2 Grow program invites families to change their food-media diet

By Victoria Goff
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Have your child featured in a Ready 2 Grow healthy habit advertisement! Ready 2 Grow, a program of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) is changing the corporate-dominated food media diet by making healthy, fresh, local media of our own for the wellbeing of our children and communities. We invite you and your child to be a part of this delicious movement.

If you close your eyes and imagine different fast food companies like McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s, chances are what you will imagine is each of the companies’ logo. This wouldn’t be unusual, studies have found that children who are too young to read still recognize and understand the meaning of corporate logos like McDonald’s and Burger King.

It is exactly this phenomenon the Ready 2 Grow program hopes to confront and change by rolling out this new, local media campaign. The campaign, featuring images of 2-8 year olds engaging in what Ready 2 Grow director Lottie Spady calls “healthy habits” like gardening, drinking smoothies, or picking fruit at orchards, aims to put the narrative around food and healthy eating into the hands of community. By creating media that focuses on the needs of community, Ms. Spady hopes to raise awareness and create alternatives to current injustices around the food system.

Youth are targeted by advertisers at a very early age. They study the way a child’s mind works, what shapes and colors most appeal, and exactly what images make children take on that blank stare in front of the television screen. Corporate campaigns create “friends” for children. Clowns, tigers, cheetahs and bears embed the kind of thinking that will ensure a lifetime of brand-loyal consumer choices. As it relates to food, many of these consumer choices are either highly processed versions of snack foods, pre-packaged lunches, and quick breakfast options or fast food menu items, all of which have been linked to increases in dietary related illnesses such as cancer, hypertension, and diabetes.

Right outside our homes we see the urban rise of fast food establishments on every corner and peppered throughout every strip mall. These too are forms of media and marketing that encourage a very limited spectrum of choice. EMEAC’s Ready 2 Grow program aims to challenge this corporate dominated media diet by making some healthy, fresh, local media of our own for the health of our children and communities.

The youth featured in the ads are all children from the Detroit community. Ms. Spady says focusing on Detroit youth is an essential part of the media campaign’s desire to empower youth with the support they need to become producers within the food system, not just consumers. As Spady argues, “We are creating safe spaces for parents and youth to try new foods, make their own media messages, demystify the farm bill and other food policy, manage daily stressors with tools such as exercise, and nourish themselves within framework of justice. This will ultimately empower participants to co-create solutions to food injustices and take an active role in the long term health of the community.”

10-flyerThe EMEAC Ready 2 Grow program is also a Child Health Impacts Research Project (CHIRP) partner and offers additional programming and activities to support nutrition and exercise for children and their families. CHIRP is supported by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Childhood Obesity Prevention Program.

Families that wish to have their youth highlighted in the media campaign should contact Ready 2 Grow to obtain more information and to be scheduled for an orientation meeting at ready2grow@gmail.com or contact Lottie Spady, 313.556.1702 Ext. 701.

For more information about Ready 2 Grow programs and activities, contact Lottie V. Spady, 313.556.1702 Ext. 701 orLottie@emeac.org.  You can also follow Ready 2 Grow on facebook and at emeac.org

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