In the United States, the novel coronavirus appears to be infecting, hospitalizing and killing black people and Latinos at alarmingly high rates, with data from several states illustrating this pattern. Health disparities in nutrition and obesity, often deriving from structural racism, correlate closely with the alarming racial and ethnic disparities related to Covid-19. See, “Covid-19 and Disparities in Nutrition and Obesity” in the New England Journal of Medicine (July 15, 2020) .
Structural inequalities across U.S. society contribute to this problem, including unequal access to fresh healthy foods, unequal access to health care, socioeconomic factors and excess exposure to toxic chemicals and unhealthy air, to name a few. For more information about structural inequities in our food system, see resources from Duke University’s World Food Policy Center and the Food First Institute for Development and Food Policy.
Another problem is that food companies specifically and disproportionately target communities of color with their marketing for junk food products. In this post we are tracking news coverage and studies about racial disparities in junk food advertising. For recent articles on the connections between food-related diseases and Covid-19, impacts on farmworkers and food workers, and other vital food system issues related to the pandemic, see our Coronavirus Food News Tracker. See also our reporting in Environmental Health News, What does junk food have to do with COVID-19 deaths? by Carey Gillam (4.28.20).
Data on the disproportionate targeting of junk food advertising and marketing to communities of color
Increasing disparities in unhealthy food advertising targeted to Hispanic and Black youth, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity; Council on Black Health (January 2019)
- Junk food ads disproportionately target black and Hispanic kids: report, by Lisa Rapaport, Reuters (1.17.19)
- Black and Hispanic youth are targeted with junk food ads, research shows, by Jessica Ravitz, CNN (1.15.19)
Television food advertising viewed by preschoolers, children and adolescents: contributors to differences in exposure for black and white youth in the United States, Rudd Center of Food Policy and Obesity (May 2016)
Food advertising targeted to Hispanic and Black youth: Contributing to health disparities, Rudd Center for Food Policy, AACORN, Salud America! (August 2015)
- Study: Black children are exposed to junk-food ads way more than white kids are, by Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post (12.15.16)
Limit junk-food ads that contribute to childhood obesity, Statement by the American Medical Association (2018)
Health equity & junk food marketing: talking about targeting kids of color, Berkeley Media Studies Group (2017)
To Choose (Not) to Eat Healthy: Social Norms, Self‐affirmation, and Food Choice, by Aarti Ivanic, Psychology and Marketing (July 2016)
- People of color have the highest obesity rates in the US. Food marketing is part of the problem: Interview with Aarti Ivanic by Nadra Little, Vox (9.28.18)
Disparities in Obesity-Related Outdoor Advertising by Neighborhood Income and Race, Journal of Urban Health (2015)
Child-Directed Marketing Inside and on the Exterior of Fast Food Restaurants, American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2014)
- Fast-Food Chains Disproportionately Target Black Children, by Olga Khazan, The Atlantic (11.13.14)
- Fast food marketing for children disproportionately affects certain communities, Arizona State University (10.14)
- Fast Food Restaurants Are Targeting Black Kids with Their Advertising, by Laura Rotham, Vice (11.17.14)
Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption on Black Americans’ Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation(2011)
The Context for Choice: Health Implications of Targeted Food and Beverage Marketing to African Americans, American Journal of Public Health (2008)
Fast Food: Oppression through Poor Nutrition, California Law Review (2007)
The Health Impact of Targeted Marketing: An Interview with Sonya Grier, Corporations and Health Watch (2010)
Exposé on how McDonald’s and Burger King targeted African Americans in the 1970s, by Lenika Cruz, The Atlantic (6.7.15)