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Shaping our Health by Influencing Food Trends

It’s time to re-write the food and beverage marketing playbook for urban communities!

SHIFT is a NEW initiative that is specifically designed to be led by teens. SHIFT is in place to push back on the heavy marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages directed to teens and particularly black teens. In today’s world, marketing shapes what we like, what we can afford, and what products are available, and food is no exception. Marketing bad health by overselling unhealthy foods and beverages can affect the health of communities over time.

Our Goal is to mobilize teens to demonstrate the need and desire for a healthier mix of food and beverage options. We want healthy foods to become more available, affordable, easier to find, and advertised as heavily as the unhealthy products are advertised now. 

Are we trying to take away choice?  Definitely not.  What we are saying is that we think teens want more and better options to choose from and at a good price.

Why marketing?

Marketing is big business. Businesses respond to customers.  All customers deserve to have a decent mix of food products marketed, in a fair balance, but business will not respond if the voices of consumers are not heard.

Why teens?

Teens have money to spend.  Marketers target teens to set trends.  Teens are in a good position to influence both children and adults in their communities.

Who is leading SHIFT?

The leaders of SHIFT are teens and their adult allies who recognize their roles in addressing the imbalance in the current trend of heavily marketed unhealthy foods and beverages to urban communities. The idea for SHIFT grew out of discussions with black teens and adults in Philadelphia, PA. As we talked with teens and adults the same commentary was shared time and time again – if I had access to better food and beverage options at affordable prices I would buy them. Therefore, we want all teens from cities around the country that are affected by the current imbalance in food marketing to get involved in SHIFT versus letting the current food marketing system drive what shows up in their communities.

In summer 2011, black students from two Philadelphia High Schools and a recent University of Pennsylvania college graduate began working with staff at the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network to organize this initiative. SHIFT leaders are assisted and supported by the SHIFT team at the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network.  The African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network is a national research network based at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The Network includes academic researchers, people training to become researchers, and community members who participate as partners on research projects. The Network members and affiliates work together to improve the quality and amount of research related to nutrition, physical activity, and weight issues that affect black communities. The network is committed to the application of research findings to solve community health problems through community action and advocacy and more effective community programs.  

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Support for this website was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation