Welcome To (Your Company Here) High

July 16, 2003
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but it is free. Here are some of Ms. Quart’s
comments about Channel One.

July 16, 2003
Welcome to (Company Name Here) High™
By ALISSA QUART

It’s easy, like selling candy to children." In the last
month, that bromide
has taken on a whole new meaning as public school officials have
acted to
make selling junk food to students a whole lot harder. On July
1, Kraft
Foods announced that it would withdraw its advertisements for
processed
foods from the in-school television station Channel One. A week
before, New
York City’s Education Department banned soda and candy from the
vending
machines of its public schools. The department’s action came
on the heels of
similar measures by school districts in San Francisco and Los
Angeles.

The developments are an important step in tackling the epidemic
of obesity
among our youth. But perhaps just as vitally, they also tap into
the issue
of commercialism. Not only do schoolchildren put on pounds with
chips, candy
and soda, they also soak in the brand names that come along with
such
products. Unfortunately, the issue of commercialism doesn’t end
with
removing candy from vending machines. It only begins with it.

… Lastly, shouldn’t parents and teachers question why children
in
12,000 schools still watch ad-laden Channel One every day or
why students
have activities on playing fields or in gyms named after Shop-Rite
and
Rust-Oleum?

One teenager from Texas who attends a school sponsored by
a soda company
recently told me that she was not allowed to drink other sodas
in school and
then was coerced into covering her textbooks with paper bearing
the logo and
the image of that brand of soda. Another told of being forced
to watch
Channel One at his school in Tennessee instead of, say, studying.

My hope is that the success of the youth obesity fight will
intensify the
scrutiny companies face regarding their marketing techniques
in general.
School districts in Seattle and Nashville have already limited
corporate
advertising on school signs and banned Channel One, respectively.

Parents and teachers need to work toward further measures
aimed at taking
commercialism out of schools, including banning advertisements
on book
covers and on hallway posters. Schools also need to abandon the
practice of
awarding their naming rights to companies: if you think selling
candy bars
and sodas at school is a problem, you can agree that children
identifying
their schools with a supermarket chain or a paint company isn’t
so healthy,
either. Perhaps then it will not only be tougher for children
to buy candy,
but also easier for them to run around gymnasiums that once again
are,
rather quaintly, named after human beings.

Alissa Quart is author of "Branded: The Buying and Selling
of Teenagers."