This weekend, I was shopping at a large chain supermarket with my daughter. Typically we shop farmer’s markets, whole foods, or other local health food stores. Today, we were on a mission to find bird seed for a trip to a local bird sanctuary and so stopped there.

All I can say is…WOW. We passed the bulk aisle first, then snacks and drinks, before hitting the pet food aisle. Sponge Bob, Dora The Explorer, and Shrek were everywhere. My normally calm little shopper was ecstatic, quickly convinced that anything Shrek must be delicious. Especially the Shrek Twinkies with the green cream.

So, I cringed and let her buy a box. After reading the ingredients, her sister and I opted out of trying it. But, she did, and thankfully, two bites later threw the box away. “Gross,”she said.

Phew…. a valuable learning experience for my daughter, that cartoon characters on food typically means processed, tasteless junk.

Did you know that the food industry spends 2 billion dollars every year marketing directly to children and teenagers? They market to young children to create brand loyalties that studies show last a lifetime.

This junk food marketing isn’t restricted to supermarkets, it’s what our children are watching every day on tv and it’s what’s all over the internet. Food industry ad spending in the virtual game spector of the internet is expected to reach $1 billion dollars in 2014. And, kids are watching an average of 4600 ads a year for processed foods. As a result, kids are craving and eating more junk.

As you probably already know, diet related illnesses in children are rising dramatically. According to the CDC, 12.5 million children are obese, and many more are suffering from diabetes, autism, allergies, asthma, and ADHD.   At a recent conference in NYC, Anna Lappe, author and activist, recently spoke about young people in their twenties needing dentures because they have been drinking soda their entire lives.

It’s our job as parents to make sure we are providing healthy foods for our children, but it really does make our jobs harder when the food industry is undermining our efforts with cartoon characters, superheros and happy meals.

And speaking of happy meals, Lappe spoke about retiring Ronald McDonald. Great idea! If you’d like to get involved, here are a couple of good resources:

Food Myths

Commercial Free Childhood

According to Lappe “Food companies say it’s up to parents to raise healthy kids. And I agree, absolutely. That’s why I say to those corporations, leave parenting to us. Don’t tell children what’s good to put into their bodies…My children, all of our children, are none of your business”.