As nutrition policy coordinator for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Jennifer Eder urges food, beverage and entertainment companies to market only healthy food and drinks to children. PreventObesity.net often works alongside CSPI on campaigns to gather support of activists to create healthy environments and policies for kids.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
Before making the switch to public health, I was an education reporter in Wilmington, Del. and spent a lot of time in schools seeing firsthand the effects of unhealthy diets and too little physical activity among students. But I also witnessed the Nemours Health and Prevention Services’ 5-2-1-Almost None campaign and its innovative work in child care, which inspired me to make a career change to public health where I could focus on improving children’s health and reducing childhood obesity.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
As a nutrition policy coordinator at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, I work to help end the excessive marketing of unhealthy food to children by urging food, beverage and entertainment companies to improve their marketing practices. I also encourage restaurants to revamp their kids’ meals by including healthier options. By organizing advocacy campaigns that include sign-on letters, social media and action alerts, I help to create a healthier environment for children. This past summer, I helped lead an effort to add almost 75 new members to the Food Marketing Workgroup, a group of advocates dedicated to eliminating harmful food marketing. I’m also overseeing a project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to identify which messages resonate best with mothers to mobilize them to take action against unhealthy food marketing.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
This summer, we targeted Unilever, the maker of Popsicles, for its on-package marketing, specifically its use of third-party characters. [After] launching a Twitter campaign and sending Unilever a letter outlining our concerns, the company indicated it was discontinuing the use of [a popular children’s character] on its Popsicle boxes as part of its effort to no longer market to children under age 6. We also launched a campaign to urge top restaurant chains to remove soda and other sugary beverages from their children’s menus.
Who is your role model in your work?
Soon after I started pursuing my master’s in public health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, I learned about the Center for Science in the Public Interest, specifically the Nutrition Policy Department. My interests aligned perfectly with CSPI’s mission as I began to see the role that policy could make in creating healthier environments and reducing childhood obesity. I attended a conference in 2012 and got to hear Margo Wootan, now my boss, speak. It was evident how passionate and committed she was to improving children’s diets and health, and I knew that I wanted to work with her one day. A few months later I did my master’s practicum at CSPI for three months, and then returned as a nutrition policy coordinator in May 2013. Margo is a great leader and an extremely effective advocate, and I feel lucky I get to learn from her.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up? Did you play any sports?
I grew up playing basketball and running hurdles, and my favorite healthy snacks were bananas and grapes. While I’ve substituted shooting hoops and jumping hurdles for marathons and yoga, I still eat a banana every day with breakfast and often snack on grapes during the day.
Each week, our own Zach Brooks speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Zach’s profile and contact him.