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How Fast Food Giants Capitalise on Young People Online in a Broken Food System

Resolutions are often focused on becoming healthier, often by changing our diets so they contain less processed and sugary foods like chocolate for example. But how many of us succeed? Are you like me and likely to fail at the first hurdle of temptation? Ever asked yourself why that is?

Ever considered that it might not be about you, but more about a broken food system and a toxic culture created by fast-food giants.

If we do not actively make a stand, who will? 

At the heart of the problem lies targeted and highly effective junk food marketing. If you compare the ever-shrinking budgets for public health professionals, to the massive sums being poured into persuasive advertising it is no wonder children's health is being affected as we are lured into buying more fast food. Studies have shown that every single second in the UK 500 junk food ads go out online that are seen by kids.

And it infiltrates every aspect of our lives, be that appetising food ads as you scroll through social media and watch TV, or leaflets through your letterbox, or bill-boards on motorways or on your route to school. They all capture our attention. 

In an attempt to expose the true scale of this, BiteBack 2030 carried out a social experiment with young people employing sneaky tactics that the food industry uses. All 8 teenagers ended up picking the same unhealthy meal and all noted how they never realised at the time, but all of these marketing tactics influence your choices on food subconsciously. Another even noted how colour played a role in his choice. Red, orange and yellow are the most popular colours used in junk food marketing, for a reason!

We were successful in our campaign of implementing a 9pm watershed ban on junk food advertising, but we still have a long way to go.

Massive sums being poured into persuasive advertising it is no wonder children's health is being affected

As I have realised through my advocacy work, the discussion on social justice spans the food system, the climate crisis, education, healthcare and the systemic racism that still persists today. As a 16-year-old in the current education system, I can confidently (but not proudly) say that it does not equip us with the skills to live sustainably, despite the fact that current and future generations will grow up in a world that is affected greatly by such problems. Whilst food and environmental justice is receiving increasing attention in media, policy-making and academia, as the youth of today, we are connected to this fight for a more inclusive and sustainable planet more than ever before. 

There is nothing stopping us from disrupting the systems that are not equipped to serving us. 

Over the past year, young people from the Bite Back 2030 Youth Board + Leaders like myself, have been committed to disrupting the food system and we have had many successes so far. From launching an amazing petition led by Christina, co-chairwoman of the BiteBack 2030 Youth Board, which got the support and backing of Marcus Rashford, we were able to help 1.4 million children benefit from free school meals over the holidays. 

It showed there is nothing stopping us from disrupting the systems that are not equipped to serving us. 

To change the world, one must change himself, and in gross realize, that we are, but the stepping stone of what we are to become. The individual responsibility we have for each other is immense. Tangible and real impact in society can only be achieved by collaborative action, the birth of new ideas and radical change. 

Being part of this movement has allowed me to educate myself, become more mindful, forge meaningful connections and I still have so much to learn. 

In the absence of strong leadership, young people possess the power of creativity and imagination to create the future we want. 

Join us. 

Yumna, Youth Leader aged 16.

Yumna- Youth Leader​​​​​​​

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