Campaign: Public Sector - Fighting the junk food temptation

Campaign: Temptation Town
Client: School Food Trust
PR team: Geronimo Communications
Timescale: March-April 2008
Budget: £10,000

The School Food Trust (SFT) is a non-departmental public body established by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in September 2005 to transform school food. It promotes the education and health of children and young people by improving the quality of food eaten in schools.

Healthier school meals have been on the media agenda for some time and the falling take-up of school meals in secondary schools has received a lot of attention. One of SFT's key goals is to tackle this and drive take-up of school meals.

New standards for lunch have improved the quality of school food and vending machines now stock healthier products rather than sugar-filled snacks.

Geronimo was brought in to help push the campaign further.

OBJECTIVES

- To position the SFT as leading the national and local debate on school food and healthy eating among young people

- To link the uptake of school meals and success of the meal reform programme to the access of children to junk food

- To use the research as a platform to spark public debate on two policies: keeping children on school grounds at lunchtime, and a sensible approach to licensing of food outlets near schools.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

The target audience was parents, caterers, teachers and local authorities. In order to show the scale of junk food temptations facing secondary schoolchildren, Geronimo created a Temptation League Table, ranking local education authorities on the number of junk food outlets per secondary school in that area. This highlighted the UK's 'temptation hot spots'.

This research was supported by a Tickbox survey that revealed 90 per cent of parents would support a 'stay-on-site' policy to encourage kids to eat school dinners. The SFT released a guide for schools on implementing this policy, designed to be distributed on the back of media coverage.

The survey results were broken down into regional statistics, which alongside their individual ranking on the Temptation League Table enabled regional journalists to tailor the story for local relevance. In addition, maps were created showing junk food temptation hotspots, and a 'Burgerometer' to illustrate how the top ten cities on the league table compared.

Geronimo also brought in a top childhood obesity expert from Great Ormond Street Hospital to do media interviews.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

According to Metrica, the campaign featured in 511 pieces of coverage. This included 41 pieces of national TV coverage and eight pieces of national print coverage. Highlights included the front page of The Daily Telegraph, a piece in the Daily Mirror, features on BBC Breakfast and the Today programme, ITV news and coverage on two phone-in debates on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC Radio 5 Live and the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2.

RESULTS

The issue of keeping students on site at lunchtime was discussed and debated at length in the media, with public support for the proposals from key stakeholders and opinion-formers such as the National Association of Headteachers.

Evidence suggests it has entered the public domain as a feasible solution to schoolchildren eating junk food at lunchtime, with post-campaign references in The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mirror and in a BBC Politics South documentary. The campaign has also sparked further research into what secondary schoolchildren eat outside the school gates at lunchtime. The report published in July by the Nutrition Policy Unit at London Metropolitan University, The School Fringe - What Pupils Buy and Eat from Shops Surrounding Secondary Schools, references the SFT research.

In October, Waltham Forest Council also announced it was going to ban junk food outlets near the borough's schools.

SECOND OPINION - Sarah Kent Deputy MD, Haslimann Taylor

The 'fat kids' issue is always going to generate massive media coverage, but Geronimo's campaign really did deliver quality and quantity coverage. The strategy reached a very broad spectrum of audiences - parents, caterers, teachers and local authorities - using many different media hooks and angles.

I liked many things about this initiative. Firstly, it engaged parents (and I am one), where the ultimate responsibility lies. Secondly, I like how it tackles the issue of availability of junk food, providing regional angles and statistics. Thirdly, Geronimo's plan has a really good balance of serious facts and the use of a Great Ormond Street expert along with lighter news hooks such as the Burgerometer cut through to an impressive list of broadsheets, red tops and broadcast media. Finally, there was a very definite call to action.

Having experience of teenagers, I know you can only give them the information and hope they make the right choices. I would have been interested to know what was done subsequently to motivate children to stay on site.

Surely sport has to be at the core here? Exercise will not stop the cravings for junk food, but if more teenagers are given more opportunities to play sports, it will certainly help counter the obesity problem. The School Food Trust has some great role models - Myleene Klass, Louisa Lytton and Frank Lampard. I hope Frank is being made the most of. He's looking good on my wall anyway - great download.

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