Case Study: Change One Thing—Championing Healthier Eating Habits in Teens

Food Bank For New York City 
Project Title
Change One Thing 

2011 Campaign: July–September 2011

2012 Campaign: July–September 2012


As one of the country's largest food banks, Food Bank For New York City aims to end hunger in New York City by collecting and distributing meals to help feed the 2.6 million New Yorkers in need and by providing nutrition education programs that reach over 40,000 children, teens and adults.

To support that mission, AMP was challenged to develop a strategic social responsibility program for Food Bank For New York City that promoted healthy eating among low-income teens residing in the five boroughs of New York City. Our goal was to reach 100,000 teens who met a very strict set of criteria as defined by the USDA, who funded the campaign (see “Budget” below). 

We used a variety of methods, included both traditional and non-traditional approaches, to get the message across during the campaign. We placed billboards around the city at different New York City transit stations. Some of the billboards were hand-painted adaptations of our ads. We tried to reach children through ad placement at bodegas, which we considered a good target area as this is where many kids choose their snacks. We launched specialized promotions on the radio and appeared at local events with “Change One Thing” branded materials. And, perhaps most notably, we created a customized, healthy food truck, which distributed nutritious summer snacks and featured an interactive game about healthy eating habits.


The USDA funded the campaign via a grant. This grant mandated that all media placements must take place in areas where 50 percent of people have incomes equal to or less than 185 percent of New York state poverty guidelines/thresholds.


AMP conducted primary research with the target teen audience to better understand their perceptions of healthy eating. These methods included in-person discussion groups, lunchtime audits, teen “shadows” and workbook activities. 

From this research, we were able to extract two key insights. First, teens are aware that their diet and exercise habits are not healthy. Second, teens believe that being “healthy” is an all-or-nothing proposition. Therefore, being healthy is perceived as too big of a change to make and too much work.


Our strategy was to inspire teens to make healthier decisions by illustrating how small changes lead to big rewards that they will see both immediately and in the future. That message came to life via the “Change One Thing” campaign, which challenged our target audience to bring about real, positive change in their lives by making one small, healthy choice per day. 

The media was hyper-targeted to our audience and we payed close attention to the areas in which they resided, hung out, bought snacks throughout the day and commuted to school or work. The hyper-targeted surround strategy meant focusing on out-of-home and transit advertising, radio promotions, mobile, social media and an experiential, mobile food truck. 

We realized that these kids are met with a barrage of unhealthy foods on a daily basis through the ads that they see again and again; we wanted to counter those ads and show our audience that there are healthy alternatives. We did a photo shoot with Gary Sloan in his studio to create some of the most horrible-looking snack foods as well as the healthy, “hero” choices. For the junk foods, we used a number of techniques—sweating, melting and dripping food—to create a generally unappealing look while reinforcing the appeal of the healthy food choices. These healthy choices were further emphasized by prominently displaying them next to the images of unhealthy foods. The use of bright colors brought attention to the design, and the use of a solid, clean band of color made the headlines on the ad stand out.

In addition to traditional billboards and transit advertising, we deployed “Change One Thing” messaging through the innovative use of non-traditional touch points including in-bodega advertising and hand-painted neighborhood murals. We partnered with local bodegas in key neighborhoods across the five boroughs to provide branded register bags and custom developed floor decals to impact healthy eating decisions at a key decision time for teens debating between a “junk food” snack or a healthier alternative. We also identified a key out-of-home placement directly next to a McDonald's location near old Yankee Stadium and executed a hand-painted adaptation of creative messaging. The oversized mural generated tremendous buzz in the neighborhood and stood as a constant reminder of the healthy eating message.

Additionally, we put a spin on traditional radio placements by creating a partnership with local radio stations to execute on-air promotional reads and custom promotions including “No Soda Day,” which encouraged teens to give up sugary beverages for one day with constant on-air reminders being delivered hourly to reinforce the message. We further leveraged the radio partnerships to secure added value event integration at nine targeted grassroots events where Food Bank for New York City was able to deliver water bottles and backpacks along with “Change One Thing” messaging. 

In 2012, the Food Bank challenged AMP to evolve the “Change One Thing” program by bringing the message to life in an interactive, engaging way that would reach 175,000 low income teens in areas of NYC where they regularly hang out. So we brought the “Change One Thing” message to the streets—literally. We created a customized, healthy food truck, which distributed nutritious summer snacks (apple slices, frozen fruit bars and bottled water) in New York City. The Change One Thing truck spread the healthy eating message by:

  • Making stops at teen centers, summer camps, parks and recreation centers throughout the five boroughs and offering teens an interactive experience to learn about healthy food choices and the things they can do to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Engaging teens with a custom interactive “Change One Thing” touch screen game, mounted on the outside of the truck. Teens were challenged to understand the consequences of making bad food choices in an engaging activity that incorporated gaming skills and healthy food knowledge.
  • Offering samples of healthy frozen fruit pops, teen-focused recipe booklets, sliced apples and bottled water at events, thereby providing real world examples of healthy food choices.
  • To reinforce the messaging on the streets, we created a sustained media presence across channels that resonated with teens. Given that teens spend an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes per day listening to internet radio, we geo-targeted internet radio spots and created Pandora digital banners containing the “Change One Thing” messaging for mobile devices. 


The inherent challenge was the strict set of criteria as defined by the USDA who funded the campaign.

To adhere to these guidelines, AMP Agency used a combination of census data and proprietary research to ensure all media was hyper-targeted to the identified zip code areas where audience segments resided, hung out, bought snacks throughout the day and commuted to school or work.


Since launching, the campaign has been extremely successful in communicating the key campaign message to New York City teens and getting them to think about what they are eating and healthier food options. The 2011 pre/post measurement showed significant behavioral changes as a result of the campaign. There was a 10 percent increase in the number of low incomes teens that believe having healthy eating habits is important. In the post study, 50 percent of the respondents stated that they had changed their eating behaviors while the campaign was in market. Sixty-eight percent of these respondents report that they are trying to make healthier eating decisions and 64 percent report that they are thinking more about how what they choose to eat will affect them in the future.

This case study is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.