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The Washington Post has a story about how the Walt Disney Company is actively using its various characters and franchises – ranging from Mickey Mouse to “High School Musical” – to brand and sell healthier food, including fresh produce and dairy products.

According to the Post, “Disney's practice of licensing its characters for placement on children's food products is not new, but its strategy is. Whereas cereal boxes and fast-food bags used to be prime real estate for company-to-kid marketing, alarming rates of childhood obesity caused Disney to think twice about aligning its name with sugary or fatty foods. So over the past few years, Disney has gradually distanced itself from junk food … Now, there are more than 250 offerings in the Disney Garden line, at least one of which is available in 18 of the top 20 mass and grocery retailers in the United States. Sales grew 70 percent in 2008 over the previous year, thanks to expanding offerings.”

KC's View:
The Post notes that while Disney no longer is criticized for contributing to the nation’s obesity problem, there still are those who argue that using these kinds of methods to sell anything to kids is wrong…that, in the words of one critic, “the best thing we could do is to stop marketing any food to them and let parents make choices about what their children eat without being undermined by advertising.”

Isn’t it pretty to think so.

Maybe we also could get kids to turn off their computers and iPods and instead spend time down at the malt shop…except, of course, that the stuff you drink at the malt shop probably contributes to obesity issues.

The simply fact is that kids are exposed to marketing and advertising images all the time, and one of the things that parents ought to do is teach their children how to differentiate among them. I think there is a pretty good argument for being careful about how and what you market to little kids, but suggesting that companies not be allowed to market healthy products to kids seems silly and counter-productive, and the result of fuzzy thinking by people who aren’t dealing with reality.