Companies that sell junk food, from fast food to unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, are spending billions of dollars on ads targeting black and Hispanic youth, according to a new report conducted by the University of Connecticut, Drexel University, and the University of Texas Health Science Center.
The same companies have pushed healthier food initiatives, establishing “corporate responsibility programs to support health and wellness among their customers,” said Jennifer Harris, a lead author of the study and director of the Rudd Center’s Marketing Initiatives at UConn, in a press release.
Access to healthier food options in the U.S. has been lacking in marginalized communities, with food deserts — areas where 33% of residents don’t have access to a grocery store within one mile — impacting black communities at higher rates, Bustle reported. These issues have led racial justice activists to organize around food justice.
According to the study, of the $11 billion companies spent on TV ads for food products in 2017, 80% was spent on advertising junk food. The study also found that black youth are more than twice as likely to see these commercials as white youth.
Some of the companies with the most content targeting youth of color and black youth included Mars, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola. Only 3% of funding went to advertising healthier food options, with just 1% of that spent on black-targeted programs, CNN reported.
“Not only are these companies missing out on a marketing opportunity, but they are inadvertently contributing to poor health in black communities by heavily promoting products linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure,” Shiriki Kumanyika, an author and chair of the Council on Black Health at Drexel, said.