Perceptions of the Food Marketing Environment Among African American Teen Girls and Adults

African-American adolescents, particularly girls, are disproportionately affected by obesity. The food marketing environment has been shown to be an influencing environmental factor in youth obesity, yet little is understood about how African Americans perceive this environment in their communities.

This study examines views African-American adults and teen girls have about targeted food marketing to adolescent girls. The study used photo voice and small group interviews. An advisory board of both adults and teens was formed, which recruited additional participants. Study participants were African American, from Baltimore, and connected to an all-girl, public, college preparatory high school in Baltimore. The semi-structured interviews took place in small groups between December 2008 and February 2009. The interviews examined photographs taken by the participants and discussed emergent themes. These discussions were transcribed, coded, and analyzed.

Key Findings:

  • Both adults and teen girls perceived type of food products, availability of foods, and price as relevant to teen girl’s choices.
  • Adults specifically noted that advertisements and insufficient nutrition education affected food purchases among teen girls.
  • Teen girls specifically noted that convenient and tasty foods, as well as the location in which they were available, influenced their choices.

This study suggests that more research is needed to understand the opinions of African-American adults and teen girls regarding food marketing practices.