Fighting against the impact of “Big Food” advertising on children in Colombia
Children have been seen as a lucrative market niche for big food companies responsible for producing ultra-processed edible products, i.e. those with high concentration of sugar, salt and fat. Such products and also sweetened drinks have been one of the main reasons for the growing numbers of diabetes and obesity among children and teenagers around the world. In Colombia, 15.7% of the children aged 5-17 years are overweight; the rates in some provinces such as San Andres Islands are close to 30% putting close to similar rates as Mexico, the country known for having the highest rates of child obesity in the world.
The obesity pandemic among children has expanded at a very fast pace in Colombia: companies see children and teenagers as main consumers of nutrient-poor products. 96% of all advertisement targeted to children in one of Colombian major TV channels was on junk food in a sample done in 2012. Corporations target young audiences through aggressive advertising campaigns, especially via television, the internet and billboards close to schools. The Colombian parents association “Red Papaz” and FIAN Colombia in cooperation with Educar Consumidores, Vital Strategies and Global Health Advocacy Incubator have therefore developed a broad campaign in the country called “Do not eat more lies; do not give them to your children”. This campaign highlights 1) that children are not just consumers but first and foremost rights holders under special protection in the Colombian constitution; 2) that the obesity pandemic is not about wrong individual life-style choices but rather the result of systemic choices favoring a corporate diet. In this sense, the campaign urges the Colombian state to mandatorily ban advertisement of junk food for children and to transform the existing agro-food system towards agro-ecology and food sovereignty.
Children and fishing, in Katosi community
“Though Katosi landing site in Mukono district central Uganda has grown into a commercial landing site handling fish for export, the volume of activities at the landing site has declined over the years. Images of a very lively and busy trading centre when we were children are so vivid in my mind. The sunrise off the lakeshore gave it a golden look. Between 9- 12 in the morning, the place would get busier with boats landing fish, and women processors and traders from all over the country would come to the landing site to buy fish. My mother was entitled to fish from her two fishermen sons in-law daily. Fish was our daily food, eaten in all forms, shapes and sizes as the whole village would be filled with the aroma of smoking fish in the evening.” Margaret Nakato, Coordinator Katosi Women Development Trust (KWDT), and Executive Director WFF.
The recently concluded baseline study by KWDT in fishing communities reveals that children constitute more than 54% of the entire population in fishing communities (KWDT Baseline report for project inception, 2017). Access to adequate fish for consumption at household level is essential to meet the dietary requirements of children. However, reduced access to fishing grounds and fisheries resources, coupled with fish export has greatly reduced fish consumption by children, as much as adults (if not more).
During an interview with one of the women in Nangoma Landing site she narrated: “if your husband is not a fisherman, you cannot eat fish these days. And even when he is a fisherman, sometimes he cannot get fish for selling and again fish for eating at home”.
KWDT has actively engaged women and children in development activities and enhancing their role in restoring the fish stocks as well as reducing pressure on the fisheries sector by supporting women into diverse income generating activities. The best way to ensure children’s right to fish consumption is through ensuring access to fish for women and the local communities.
“Sem-Terrinha”: Brazilian landless workers’ movement, children and food sovereignty
Founded 34 years ago, the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) is organized around three main objectives: Struggles for land, agrarian reform and for socialism. We are organized on several fronts; namely production, health, youth, culture, education and human rights.
The participation of our children, the so-called “Sem-Terrinha” (Landless Children), within the organization has been present since the beginning in the first occupations, because we believe everyone should be involved in the collective struggles.
This conception led MST to develop over time activities with our children as protagonists. Some examples are: children’s “cirandas” (pedagogical spaces for development and care); gatherings of the “Sem-Terrinha”, the Journey of Struggles for rural schools, as well as publications such as the “Sem-Terrinha” newspaper and the “Sem Terrinha” Magazine.
Our most recent experience with the “Sem Terrinha” has been the Cultural Journey: entitled “Healthy Eating: A Right of All”, this Journey has taken place since 2015 and is at the heart of the debate on Popular Agrarian Reform. It involves children and adolescents in rural schools and encampment schools throughout the country. The main objectives of the Journey are:
1. To strengthen and disseminate different experiences from different regions on healthy eating and its relation with Popular Agrarian Reform;
2. To work together with families on the issue of food and food production in both settlements and encampments;
3. To contribute to the food education of landless families and to the general struggle for the right to adequate food free of pesticides;
4. To strengthen initiatives to reorganize school canteens;
5. To study and debate the relations between healthy eating, food sovereignty, agroecology, peasant agriculture and Popular Agrarian Reform;
6. To introduce, in elementary schools, the debate on agroecology and on practices of ecological agriculture;
7. To resume the debate on how the link between education, socially productive work and educational content needs to be guaranteed.
During the Journey hundreds of activities were carried out throughout the country – specific studies in schools on eating habits and food history, understanding what is produced in settlements and research on agro-eco-systems, workshops related to local cooking, field practices and agroecology experiences.
The founding elements of MST’s struggles were also present during the activities of the Journey, i.e., there were theatrical interventions, awareness campaigns, public hearings, marches seeking to denounce the use of pesticides and of transgenic seeds, as well as the monopoly and food standardization that has been imposed by transnational corporations and agribusiness.
During the Journey itself, substantial changes took place in the schools where the debate was promoted, abolishing the use of soft drinks and processed foods from school meals, introducing agroecological food produced in the settlements, starting vegetable gardens to supply schools and initiating a native seed bank.
Educate for an understanding that eating is a political act! This is a great challenge that motivates our struggles! Fight and build a Popular Land Reform!
“SATU PO IMPARAI” (Learning from the countryside) Environmental and food rural education project
The project was founded in 2007 to bring the school world closer to the rural one while valuing the multifunctional role of farms. For the farms it also aimed to enhance their role in passing on the knowledge, heritage and flavours of local food production while highlighting environmental, social and economic sustainability.
The three principal actions are: school walks on educational farms, development of networks of educational farms and the School Canteen Actions, which we will discuss here.
Stakeholders in this action are the Province of the Medio Campidano, The Regional Agency of Laore Sardinia, the local health office, the schools, the farms, the managers of the school canteens and relevant associations that established a working group in 2011 with the following work programme:
1. Analysis of the actual situation of school canteens;
2. Development of a public tendering document for quality, 0km sustainable school meals;
3. Distribution of the tendering document to local councils, monitoring of the school canteen service according to the document and experimentation with new practices.
The Tendering document was developed in June of 2011 and sent to the 24 local councils in the province who provide school canteen services. The document contained the following proposals:
1. 70% of produce should be certified quality (DOP, IGP, Organic), traditional, local and with a short supply chain, of which 30% should be organic;
2. Snack foods should be provided from local products;
3. A food education plan should be developed;
4. Other elements of environmental sustainability: water networks, disposable dishware and cutlery should be biodegradable and compostable, ecological detergents and soaps, energy-saving appliances, waste management.
The tender document was adapted in 2011 by three councils and through 2012 and 2013 was adopted by the majority of the rest.
In light of subsequent monitoring and recognition received we can say that the project (about which a publication came out in 2015) obtained its objectives with a margin well beyond its best expectations.
The project has given food a “social” value, stimulating positive community relationships and built consciousness and awareness between producers and consumers. It has also opened up a broader discussion about “food education”, equality (equal and quality school food for all), as well as Food Sovereignty.