The Checkout

Ads Add Pounds, Not Programs

Today, I'm taking a break from the Deadly Spinach Outbreak to go back to school.

(For those who can't get enough of the E. coli hunt, check out today's installment.)

No, I wasn't inspired to switch subjects because of the seemingly random comment from reader Ein Lo Sechel, who wrote: "I live in 33135 Las Vegas, Nevada. Have you been here before?" in response to a previous post by Caroline titled "Say Goodbye to Sugary Soda in Schools."

Instead, what caught my attention was a paper by a crack team of researchers at Arizona State University who looked at in-school marketing of "foods of minimal nutritional value," which I hereby dub FMNV.

The ASU team estimated:

* Between 33.4 and 36.7 million of the 42.2 million students attending U.S. public schools are exposed to corporate advertising, with about 80 percent of that group exposed to ads from companies that sell FMNV.

* 82.6 percent of public schools have advertising by corporations.

* 73.4 percent didn't receive any income during the 2003-2004 academic school year as a result of activities with companies that sell FMNV.

* 12.6 percent of public schools received $2,500 or less from such activities.

The most surprising conclusion wasn't that advertising in schools is pervasive and dominated by corporations that sell FMNV, but that schools make so little money off of it.

The findings appear to call into question the major justification for schools accepting such advertising in the first place, which is to raise money for school programs.

Does the ASU team's findings jibe with what's going on in your kid's school? Fill me in.

By Annys Shin |  September 21, 2006; 8:42 AM ET Kids Marketing
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I hope this study makes it out there. The food companies main defense is always about the programs they bring to schools. This shows that they're not even doing that.

Posted by: Running | September 21, 2006 10:51 AM

I suspect that advertising for FMNV is largely comprised of signs on vending machines and advertising distributed through other media such as newspapers, magazines, and closed-circuit television broadcasting equipment. Schools don't receive money for the vending machine advertisements, but they do receive money for the vending machine placement. They also don't receive money for the advertising through other media, but instead receive the periodicals and equipment free or at reduced rates.

Posted by: djv9973 | September 21, 2006 10:53 AM

I'd much rather see the ads for FMNV than the vending machines filled with FMNV.

Posted by: Gene | September 21, 2006 11:45 AM

Parents, have you dropped the ball again?

Posted by: Steve | September 21, 2006 12:50 PM

So, if schools aren't making any money off the Corporate advertising, why let them do it? It makes no sense. It worries me when schools can be so easily snowed by Corporations. What are they teaching our kids in the way of using critical thinking skills if school Administrators can be so easily fooled?

Posted by: Cheryl | September 21, 2006 2:10 PM

I don't think it's the schools being snowed by Corporations --they are being snowed by the kids who want junk available to them in vending machines. Isn't the school lunch program still in place? If they want to eat, they can either buy a school lunch (or is that SOOOOOO UNCOOL nowadays) or bring food from home. There is no need for vending machines full of junk food and sodas available to them during the day.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | September 21, 2006 3:37 PM

"ein lo sechel" - Hebrew for "he has no sense". This IS an educational column, right? Welcome to the beat, Annys.

Posted by: Its me | September 21, 2006 5:48 PM

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