With Childhood Obesity on the Rise, Why Have Junk Food Sponsors?

Sunday night the American Idol! Live tour went to the DCU Center and left the close to 9,000 in attendance happy as they went home.

Sure, the tour featured music by the top 10 finalists of season 11, but, more importantly, in a time where this country is fighting childhood obesity, the tour was sponsored by Chips Ahoy! and Ritz.

The tour is attended by as many pre-teens and teens as adults, yet American Idol decided to team up with junk food companies. Sure, it panders to the pre-teens and teens in attendance, but do you really need to have the top 10 do a commercial for both products which is aired on the video boards before the show and during intermission saying “the snacks are the best part of the tour”?

Not only that, the street team members of the tour — or maybe that was included in the responsibility for the tour runners — were handing out sample size packages of Chips Ahoy! cookies after the show to patrons.

Listen, as a guy I am not a size 28 nor do I wear skinny jeans. But I do know this, in Massachusetts alone, 10 percent of high school students are obese — high school students; those figures do not include elementary school students.

The tour has also stopped in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — all of which have a 16 percent obesity rate among high school-aged people. The Idols have also played in Georgia, where the rate is 15 percent.

Does it make sense for a tour — which will have pre-teens and teens in attendance — to take on those two sponsors? Not if you’re in a spot to help fight childhood obesity. How Fox and the producers of the show — Freemantle America and others — and promoters AEG Live allow that to happen is beyond me.

Then again, the tour has had a history of junk food sponsors — after season two (Ruben Studdard’s winning season) the tour was sponsored by Pop Tarts. I remember working security at was then called the Worcester Centrum Centre and seeing those commercials ad nauseum as the crowd was filing in and during intermission. I don’t, however, recall an instance of the top 10 doing an ad for the product.

You see, the producers and promoters of the show don’t care. If they were to attend the concert, they’d be sitting in a cushy VIP box with a personalized menu not having to worry about sugar or junk food overload for their children.

Look, there has to be some accountability here. If childhood obesity is something we can all agree is bad — and, with statistics like “Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem,” how can we not — then why is a tour which will be heavily attended by teens and pre-teens be allowed to have such sponsors?

It’s asinine.

Imagine you’re a parent who’s helping your child fight through obesity. All summer long you’re getting your child to exercise regularly and eat better — both healthier and more appropriate portions — only to have them step into a venue where sugar and junk food is everywhere, and to top it all off free cookies are being handed out as you exit the venue. You don’t want to be the bad guy and say no to your child who just wants to have the same experience as their peers. Then again, you know the slippery slope provided by the situation. You’re stuck.

It’s not fair to you, the consumer paying good money for a show, and it’s not fair for the health of our childen — you know, the future of this country.


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