Fast Food Ads Disproportionately Target Low-Income Black Children, Study Finds

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Fast food companies are betting on minority children to become their best customers, finds a new study that looked at advertising strategies of more than 6,700 fast food restaurants in more than 400 communities in the U.S.

What the researchers noted was a disproportionate amount of fast food ads focused on getting the attention of children in rural and predominantly black middle-income communities.

The study, published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, noted that the fast food restaurants were using “child-directed marketing tactics such as including indoor play areas in restaurants and advertising children’s toys and popular cartoon characters or sports figures on the outside of the restaurants,” reported Vice's Munchies. “Fast food locations in majority black neighborhoods were found to be nearly twice as likely to use such marketing compared to locations in white neighborhoods.”

Interestingly, the two year study (2010-2012) found that fast food restaurants were not “disproportionately located in minority neighborhoods,” explains Vice, “but that the ones that serve those communities appear to be targeting children in the layout and design of their locations. One fifth of the restaurants used marketing strategies that target children, and those located in majority black areas had nine times greater odds of having a kids’ meal on display on the inside of the store.”

Children are already consuming a lot of fast food, despite restrictions in schools and campaigns focused on getting kids to eat healthier. The study authors noted that fast food is the second-largest source of calories for children and teenagers ages 2 to 18. “Each day, almost a third of young children and nearly 40 percent of teenagers eat in a fast food restaurant,” Vice reported.

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