Defeating the Flood of Junk Food Ads in Tower Hamlets — A Story of Youth Power
10 Jun 2023
A story about our journey to securing a win by Tower Hamlets agreeing to implement a policy restricting the amount of junk food ads in their borough.
Back in 2022, our Youth Board set out on a mission — to expose the flood of junk food ads infiltrating our lives.
First, we took to the streets to collect evidence of the problem — which wasn’t hard to find. With posters of soda, shakes, and sugar-filled snacks flooding our streets.
The next stage involved presenting this evidence to local councillors by writing a letter they couldn’t ignore, highlighting just how important it is for councils to take action. Bite Back’s youth campaigners used their words, art, and creativity to publish a manifesto.
Our message couldn’t have been clearer: We were fed up.
We made our opinions heard in meetings with the Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the Tower Hamlets Youth Council, inspiring people to stand up and face the junk food villain face-to-face. After a year of relentless campaigning, our work has finally paid off.
In June, Tower Hamlets announced that they’re implementing a policy restricting the amount of junk food ads in their borough!
This is a win not only for us, but for all young people.
I’ve been involved in this campaign for almost a year, and during this time, I’ve helped to draft letters to MPs, and raised awareness about the negative impacts of junk food marketing to the Tower Hamlets Youth Council. When I heard the news that Tower Hamlets agreed to pass this policy, I felt as though our work had a purpose.
Long-term campaigning can sometimes feel like you’re trying to travel along a never-ending road, without knowing exactly where you will end up. Along the way, you can often face resistance: from politicians who refuse to take action, to your friends at school who are so bombarded by junk food ads that they don’t question them.
But the journey all becomes worth it when we receive news like this. Our struggles weren’t in vain, rather they were a stepping stone to a better destination. To a world we’d only ever imagined; a society which champions child health.
So even when things are moving slowly, I maintain momentum by remembering why I started campaigning in the first place. Our world needs changing, and who better to lead the change than us young people. It’s our health that’s being affected, and we deserve a say.
When people think of campaigning, they often envision big protests and colourful banners. But it doesn’t always look like this. Sometimes, signing petitions, writing letters, and holding meetings are more powerful than taking to the streets.
Part of the movement at Bite Back is about empowering young people to view their own voices as their biggest weapon. Even though we’re young, we still have the power to influence big policy makers, and our success in Tower Hamlets is evidence of this. It’s time that young people are involved in the fight for change; we need to start inviting ourselves into the room. Only then can we begin to see a better future which amplifies youth voices.
This big win for us is only the beginning.
We hope to see more councils taking accountability for child health in their areas by following in Tower Hamlets’ footsteps and implementing restrictions against junk food advertising. It is an inescapable fact that the junk food posters lining our streets are jeopardising young peoples’ health. Junk food advertising works. Why else would companies spend so much on it? The first step towards a healthier future is to close the floodgates allowing junk food to dominate our high streets.
We’re calling for you, as supporters of our campaign, to continue pledging your support by signing our petitions, celebrating our wins, and recognising that every action is a step towards a brighter future, no matter how small it may seem.
You never know what you can achieve until you achieve it - and every voice holds power.
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