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Snack-Focused Facebook Activism (American Heart Association)

Illustration of a beverage vending machine

The American Heart Association fights for citizens' better health through a variety of methods: nutrition tips, government policy, doctor recommendations and more. In 2017, the St. Louis chapter of the AHA particularly was focused on the low nutritional value and decidedly non-heart-healthy nature of foods typically found within vending machines -- something that affects people stuck at offices, rest stops and transit stations. With a small budget and an urge to try something unconventional, the AHA wanted to see what would happen if they talked directly with local folks who also were concerned about this.

Working with the AHA, local agency Bigwidesky developed the idea to create a small, secret, highly curated Facebook group of St. Louis-area parents, school officials, nutritionists and activists that would discuss convenience foods' effects on health and the unfairness of vending machine contents. Why should a late-night worker in an office park be stuck with corn chips for dinner? Why should concession stands sell soda and sports drinks but not water? Why are shelf-stable, nutritious foods usually left out of convenience options?

Bigwidesky pulled me in to lead messaging and creative direction for meme-based activism within the group. I dug up important stats for our infographics and worked with an art director and other team members to develop images and copy that fueled group members' anger about the lack of healthy options in vending machines. Our rallying cry: "Take the snack back!" We deliberately kept a messy variety of graphics to maintain an authentic voice and capitalize on pop culture references, and members responded with their own health stories, photos of terrible vending machines and tips for avoiding snack crises.

Once the group grew to 350 infuriated members, I trained AHA staff on how to maintain the momentum, turning over the keys just before an AHA push on local policy.


Infographic about vending machines containing poor choices

Click below to begin scrolling through the images.

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