‘Tis the Marketing Season, Guest Post by Lindsey Wahlstrom

‘Tis the Marketing Season

In the month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, most Americans adhere to the motto: ‘Tis the season to eat and drink. But the next time you find yourself paying for yet another seasonal latte with your limited graduate student funds, ask yourself: “Why am I buying this?”

You may be surprised by the answer.

Despite what the best diet gurus lead us to believe, we don’t always crave food for emotional or physical reasons. Sometimes we eat and drink not because we need or even want to, but because we were prompted by marketing. Marketers are smart professionals with a knack for making us want and buy what we don’t need — especially when it comes to food.


As a communications professional, I thought I had marketing figured out. I could not have been more wrong. When I began working for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, I was blown away by what I learned. If you, like so many other Americans, think marketing ends at advertisements on billboards, radio, and TV, you have but scratched the surface of the tactics used to earn your expendable income.

Marketing has grown to encompass pouring rights, sponsorships, mobile apps, adver-games, product placements in video games and TV shows, and even branded classroom materials billed as educational curriculum.  In short, there are very few moments in the day when you are not reached by marketing.

So why the big fuss? It turns out marketing works. Really well. Individuals who are exposed to marketing consume more, both of advertised and non-advertised foods, and a well-placed point-of-purchase promotion can lead us to impulsively buy foods and drinks.

Most everything is fine in moderation, but as the effects of marketing accumulate over time, so do the strains on our waistline and wallets. Maybe this holiday season, with a bit of media savvy, we can appreciate the Coca-Cola 12-pack Christmas tree display at the grocery store for what it is: a genius marketing move to which we no longer fall prey. Now that would be cause for celebration.

~Lindsey Wahlstrom

Lindsey Wahlstrom is currently a 2nd year epidemiology student at Columbia University. She did her practicum at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, and was recognized for having one of the top Epidemiology abstracts on practicum day. A thanks to Lindsey for her contribution on the FPOP blog!

FPOP Presents: Are 90 million obese Americans “sick”? Implications of the AMA decision to label obesity a disease

The American Medical Association recently voted to recognize obesity as a disease. What does this controversial decision mean for broader public health efforts to combat obesity, and what does it mean for overweight people? Kathleen Bachynski, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, will examine the context of the AMA’s decision and its implications for obesity-related stigma, insurance coverage for the treatment of obesity, and defining what it means to have a disease versus a risk factor.

Bachynski Talk Digital Signage

Event Recap: Helena Duch, on The Role of the Home and Caregiving Environment in Early Childhood Obesity

The Duch talk last week was a smashing success! We had a full room of students eager to learn all about what Dr. Duch had to share and had some fairly engaging questions at the end.  

Dr. Duch’s presented her research on early childhood determinants of long-term health and the evaluation of parent and classroom-based interventions that were related to the bi-directional causes of micro and macrosystems .

Duch Post (2)

Duch also touched upon the regulation of self and how that related to the home cognitive environment during preschool years and their association with child overweight and obesity. She also revealed the exciting work that she was doing with the “Early Head Start” families in Washington Heights and the innovative use of physical activity measurement tools with the population.

Keep your eye out for more FPOP events!

FPOP and GCR Present Guest Lecturer Diana Hernandez

FPOP and GCR Present Guest Lecturer Diana Hernandez

The World Health Organization recognizes household energy as a “prerequisite for good health” and admonishes the very inadequate attention this issue has received to date. The emerging concept of energy insecurity (EI) is a multi-dimensional construct that describes the interplay between structural conditions of housing and the costs of household energy. The relevance of EI is demonstrated in the fact that lower-income householders are more likely than their more privileged counterparts to: a) live in housing with heating and electrical problems, (b) experience multiple heating equipment breakdowns, (c) endure utility service interruptions, (d) sustain inadequate insulation and insufficient heating capacity, and (d) report being uncomfortably cold for more than 24 hours in winter. Furthermore, energy costs are comparatively higher for lower income groups thus reducing their ability to purchase other basic necessities such as food while facing the “heat or eat” dilemma. EI is characterized by downward cycles in which householders experience substandard home temperatures despite spending scarce resources and perpetuating risk by using hazardous and inefficient space heaters and ovens to warm a cold home. As a producer of cycles of structural poverty, EI also contributes to health disparities such as asthma. These problems are emblematic of a neglected phenomenon that burdens an estimated 16 million households in the US, a disproportionate share of which are racial/ethnic minorities and low-income. Notwithstanding their significance to public health, circumstances related to EI are largely outside of the public’s consciousness, ignored in the scientific literature and overlooked in public policy.

Green Umbrella, Green Produce, Guest Post by Katie Martin!

Green Umbrella = Green Produce

By Katie Martin

When I first got to Washington Heights, it was challenging navigating where to buy food. You’ve got your bodegas, convenience stores, fast food chains, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Plenty of places to grab a quick bite or some basic foods, right? But when purchasing apples at Gristedes means spending $10 every week, I was open to seeing what other options for produce are around. I quickly noticed a smattering of carts in the neighborhood, adorned with green umbrellas and overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits. Have you spotted them too? There’s usually one parked and ready on Broadway and 169th. Loving the fact that they seemed to have great deals on fresh produce, I wanted to learn more about what they were about and where they came from. My first theory was that people trucked in produce to sell for cheap on the street and avoid all the red-tape of dealing with the authorities. This actual isn’t the case.

After talking with a few vendors near CUMC and sleuthing online, I was able to connect the dots. The carts with the green umbrellas are legit. Greet Carts were legally enacted with Local Law 9, signed by Mayor Bloomberg on March 13, 2008. Every vendor has a mobile food vending license ($50) and a Green Cart permit ($75). These Green Carts can only sell raw fruits and veggies. No frozen and processed produce allowed. Their mission is to improve access to fresh produce in underserved areas of NYC. The number breakdown for Green Carts in the boroughs of NYC is 350 for Brooklyn, 350 for the Bronx, 150 for Manhattan, 100 for Queens, and 50 for Staten Island. Even though the program is relatively new, hints to positive lifestyle changes within the communities with these carts have been seen.

NYC Green Cart, Courtesy Karp Resources

Since the law was enacted in 2008, a 2010 survey showed a significant increase in the percentage of adults in the targeted boroughs that reported eating 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables in the previous day. From 2004 to 2010, surveys of individuals in NYC exhibited a significant decrease in the percentage of individuals eating no vegetables or fruits. In addition, in September 2011, the Green Cart program received almost double the amount of applications for Green Carts than they could accept. Granted change can be slow, but these statistics are indicators that changing accessibility and visibility of fresh produce can do wonders. If you’re interested in learning more or seeing if there’s a Green Cart on a street near you, definitely check out the NYC Department of Health website.

Next time you spot a cart with a green umbrella and some bananas, feel free to pick up one or two and support the movement of making fruit and vegetables readily accessible to the NYC population. I felt like I won the lottery when I bought a quart of strawberries for $1 a week ago. That could be you.

Stay tuned for more food discoveries and exercise adventures in the City from yours truly.

Guest Speaker: Helena Duch, on The Role of the Home and Caregiving Environment in Early Childhood Obesity

Duch Talk Digital Signage

Dr. Duch’s research focuses on early childhood determinants of long-term health and the evaluation of parent, and classroom-based interventions that address developmental and health disparities, primarily in Latino children. 

This presentation will focus on modifiable correlates to obesity in the home and the parent-child relationship in early life. Particularly, Dr. Duch will review the research on self-regulation, attachment and the home cognitive environment during the toddler/ preschool years and their association with child overweight and obesity, using data from large, nationally representative samples. In addition, she will describe the implementation of a parent-child physical activity intervention with Early Head Start families in Washington Heights and the innovative use of physical activity measurement tools with this population.

Come on out!

FPOP General Body Meeting!


Hey FPOPers! Join us for our General Body Meeting on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 in HSC LL207 at 11:30-12:30pm!

Having made it through slightly over half of your first semester we are interested to know YOUR opinions and inputs!
What  kinds of events and opportunities would you like to see from FPOP next semester?
What have you learned (or wish that you did) about Food Policy and Obesity at Mailman?

Think about it, and bring your questions and comments!

Food will be provided at the meeting!

See you there!