that “there is a real fight for the public mind around these issues. But I think that’s where the opportunity is. There is a compelling story to tell that isn’t just about children’s rights—because that’s a phrase that is fraught with different meaning for different groups—but about our responsibility for kids.”
Finegood recounted that she had recently attended a conference with representatives of many of the companies with which she has worked on building trust. During a panel discussion on marketing to children, the representative from McDonald’s said that only 4 percent of Happy Meals are sold with apples, even though apples are always available. Because of the authentic trust Finegood had built with individuals in the company, the McDonald’s representative was open to her suggestion that the company make apples the default option rather than forcing customers to request them. Finegood’s point was that having a dialogue and building a relationship—not necessarily sponsorship or brand complementarity—can help in navigating challenging issues that must be sorted out before a social movement emerges.
In response to a question about children’s rights versus children’s behavior, Imig agreed that it is a key distinction. “It can’t just be about behavior,” he said. “It has to be about a conception of what’s in the best interest of kids, and a conception that is widely shared.” All successful social movements have been careful to talk about roles for individuals, families, communities, neighborhoods, businesses, and government. Making appeals only for policy changes is unlikely to be a successful approach.
Finally, Russell Pate, professor in the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, asked how to generate a sense of emergency about childhood obesity. People talk about how this will be the first generation of children who will not live as long as their parents, he said, “but we don’t really know whether that is true.” Imig agreed that social scientists are poor forecasters because they talk about what will happen if current trends continue. He returned to the idea of triggering events, which may be significant not in and of themselves but instead because they frame a long-term trend. World War II was not significant to the child care movement because women were suddenly entering the workforce. Rather, it was significant because suddenly the call for sustainable, affordable, available, quality child care was coming not just from advocates for women and children but from the broader society. “It was a moment where there was a possibility to create different kinds of alliances around a perceived different kind of need,” Pate noted.