Fast-Food Ads Target Minority Youth

Fast-food restaurants are spending more marketing to Black and Hispanic youth. Read on to learn more about how this strategy is slowing down the fight against childhood obesity. Nurses General Nursing News

Childhood obesity is a major problem in the U.S. and the pandemic has made healthy eating even harder.  A recent study found kids are now eating more pizza, burgers, fries and other fast-food items than in previous years.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than a whopping third of U.S. kids and teens eat fast food on any given day.

The Study

Research has shown a strong link between childhood obesity rates and increases in fast-food advertisement.  New research, recently published by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, found fast-food advertising has really changed over the past few years. The full study details, published in Fast Food FACTS 2021, can be accessed here.

Study Method

Researchers reviewed Neilson data to determine how 274 fast-food restaurants spent their advertising dollars and how often kids were exposed to the ad campaigns.  Data from the top 27 fast-food advertisers was also analyzed to better understand how they targeted white, Hispanic and Black consumers under the age of 18.  The researchers analysis included:

  • Advertising spending in all media, including TV, radio, outdoor and digital;
  • How much children and teens were exposed to TV advertising for fast food;
  • TV advertising targeted to Black and Hispanic youth, including advertising on Black targeted and Spanish-language TV;
  • Disproportionate exposure by Black vs. White youth; and
  • Changes in advertising spending and exposure from 2012 to 2019.

Study Findings

The fast-food industry has made changes to help address the problem of poor diets among U.S. children and teens.  These changes include:

  • Introducing healthier menu items
  • Healthier choices in kids’ meal side items
  • Removing soda from kids’ meal menu
  • Some restaurants have pledged to advertise only healthier items to children

The study findings shed light on the question “Has advertising to youth changed and if restaurants are now advertising healthier menu items?”.

Advertising Not Improved

Researchers found that over the 8 year study period, no significant improvements were made in advertising targeting children or to Hispanic and Black youth.  Key findings from 2012 to 2019 include:

  • Spending on advertisement increased by most restaurants and ads targeting Black and Hispanic youth was even greater.
  • All youth age groups were exposed to fewer TV ads, but the decline was less than expected.
  • A high number of restaurants continued to run ads targeting children under 12 on children and preschool TV channels.
  • Healthy Items Not Promoted

Data analysis revealed restaurants did not live up to their pledge of promoting healthier foods.  High-calorie menu items continued to be promoted in ads geared to children in teens.  For example:

  • Low-cost menu items and bundles were advertised 4 to 6 times as much when compared to healthier items.
  • Spending on Spanish-language and Black targeted TV ads promoting value meals/bundles was higher when compared to total ad budgets.
  • McDonald’s was the only restaurant that spent more than 1% of its advertising budget to promote healthier kids’ meals.

Other Key Findings

Other study findings found restaurants need to do a much better job of advertising healthy menu options to kids, teens and minority communities.  Findings include:

  • In 2019, fast-food restaurants increased advertising spending by over $400 million dollars compared to 2012.
  • In 2019, Black preschoolers, youth and teens viewed 75% more fast-food ads compared to their white peers.
  • A total of 274 fast-food restaurants advertised in 2019.  However, approximately 55% of fast-food TV ads aimed at kids and teens were from these 6 restaurants:
    • Domino’s 
    • McDonalds
    • Burger King
    • Taco Bell
    • Little Caesar’s
    • Sonic
    • Recommendations

The study report identified ways the fast-food industry advertise to youth more responsibly.  Here are a few recommendations:

  • Restrict unhealthy food ads to youth 14 years old and older
  • No longer advertising on preschool and children’s TV channels.
  • Stop disproportionately promoting unhealthy foods to Black and Hispanic youth.
  • Policymakers at local, state and federal governments could also play a role by:
  • Implement policies that set nutrition standards for kids’ meals.
  • Develop campaigns to increase awareness of advertising that promotes unhealthy foods and targets minority communities.

All of the study’s recommendations can be found here

How have you seen fast-food advertising impacting our youth negatively over the past year?


Fast food equity problem:  Black and Hispanic youth unfairly targeted by ads

Specializes in Geriatrics, Dialysis.
13 minutes ago, Emergent said:

I wasn't allowed to watch Saturday morning cartoons. No daytime TV was allowed in our home. No sugar cereals either. 

I'm sure you didn't suffer for it but honestly those Saturday cartoons still hold a lot of nostalgia for me.  The occasional sugar cereal was a treat we all enjoyed. The seasonal Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry were particular favorites as we always got a box of each around Halloween.

I don't know why this popped in my head when reading your post but for some reason it made me think of A Christmas Story. Poor Ralphie waited so impatiently for his decoder ring to come in the mail and then when he finally got the secret code from the radio and hid in the bathroom to figure out the secret message it ended up just being "don't forget to drink your Ovaltine." He was so disgusted he went though all that just for a lousy ad! So I guess even kid targeted ad campaign's can backfire. At least in the movie's anyway

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life).
6 hours ago, Emergent said:

I wasn't allowed to watch Saturday morning cartoons. No daytime TV was allowed in our home. No sugar cereals either. 

We could watch Sat morning tv as long as the early ranch chores were done. My mom (Who made bacon and eggs for her dogs) would not let us have sugary cereals. We ate Shredded Wheat, Special K, Corn Flakes, Cherrios.


On 7/30/2021 at 12:45 AM, morelostthanfound said:

Sorry if this struck a nerve with you but I stand by assertion.  In no way was this an attempt to "bring down the minorities", but rather, was in their defense.  Perhaps, it's you, in your military fervor, who is delusional!

Fervor? For pointing out the obvious? Oh okay gotcha.

Great posts!  Valid points in all of them.  Advertisers reach out to those who most readily purchase their products.  It's business.

However, it was found that nicotine in cigarettes left those of us who smoked with a deficit and not a benefit.  The same is true for fast food such as that from McDonald's.  Nicotine and fast food have been thoroughly researched and are found to be addictive for a large number of people regardless of personal responsibility. These addictions manifest in negative ways on the human psyche and body.  This is where those of us concerned about the health and well-being of our communities come in. Do we just simply chalk up addiction as lack of personal responsibility? Or, do we use our roles as medical and health clinicians to stand up for our communities and oppose products that do not benefit the public's health.

Specializes in Customer service.

I'm very sure that if people desire to eat healthily and stop excessive camping in front of their TV or whatever they're doing unless they work more than 40hrs to 100hours per week, they have a lot of time to do things. It doesn't take a lot to cook food. These days, EBT and other social welfare programs can be used online. Ask social services about home services they have been providing. They'll eat foods they grew up with. Perhaps, they grew up in a household who got no time to cook or also grew up eating starchy and highly saturated fat foods.


I gave up many good things, including unlimited data, internet, cable/tv, so I can have good food, especially since I can't stomach fast food. I'm that person who loves, steaks, live lobsters and crabs, vegetables, and fruits. I'm not rich, so I get to pick foods versus entertainment. I was lucky in this department where I ate good foods as a child and young adults. Everyone knew how to cook. I also know how to cook foods I love and can follow recipes, too. 

Specializes in ER/School/Rural Nursing/Health Department.

I love the idea of more school-run gardens.  They wouldn't take a lot of time or money to put together especially if the kids rotate weeding, watering, picking, etc.  People have gotten so detached from where their food comes from and how it is produced.  Space limitations wouldn't be a huge barrier as container gardening and potted gardening can still offer a lot of items like tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, onions, etc.

I agree also with personal responsibility.  I see a lot of parents who for various reasons (tired from working a lot, lots of kids under school age, financial or domestic issues) just give in to their kids because it is easier.  Instead of being firm and educating their kids.  Like I said-I don't blame parents necessarily for doing this but it does change how kids view food and nutrition.  

My family is lucky.  We farm (cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, hay) and from when my kid's can remember they understood the cattle were where we get meat, the chickens lay our eggs, and it takes a lot of time and effort to farm for food.  I'll admit we don't even have a personal garden due to the farm itself taking so much time. 

I'm also a school nurse and love doing education with elementary, middle, and high school about nutrition, easy recipes, how to read labels, what is important for their growth and development, and how to make good food choices in college.  

On 7/30/2021 at 12:45 AM, morelostthanfound said:

Sorry if this struck a nerve with you but I stand by assertion.  In no way was this an attempt to "bring down the minorities", but rather, was in their defense.  Perhaps, it's you, in your military fervor, who is delusional!

Your assertion is objectively wrong. Look at combat MOS demographics and demographics of those killed. 75%+ white. Try again or choose to live in a fantasy land to fit your narrative.