You’re looking at them. Those four, Happy-Meal-item-shaped puppets.
And, currently? San Francisco’s most wanted.
You’d think – this day in age – politicians would pick and choose their battles, contending only with the most important priorities. Instead, you’ve lawmakers like those in the state of California, or, more specifically, San Francisco.
Their biggest problem at the moment? McDonald’s.
The actual problem? Childhood obesity.
I know, I know. By this same line of logic, Chicago politics almost start to make sense.
Instead of combatting the tangible and attainable goals of say, improving upon the nutritional requirements of school lunches…they’ve made that harmless, red-shoed clown Public Enemy #1. It didn’t take me very long to come up with my weekly topic as soon as I read that San Francisco banned McDonald’s from including free toys with the Happy Meals, on the grounds that it rewarded unhealthy eating habits, and encouraged childhood obesity.
You don’t see Bacardi sued for someone’s alcoholism. Nor is Marlboro coming under fire for any one of the millions of lung cancer deaths that occur from smoking. Why? Because both afflictions occur as the results of personal choices.
Fast food isn’t mandated, and – if anything – there are more healthy options on fast food menus today than there have ever been. Sure, you can have a DQPC (Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese) and wash it down with a large Coke. You also could give those eyes of yours a workout and jog them over to the right of the menu, and find a salad to order with a bottle of Dasani. If there’s a menu, there’s a choice, and if there are healthier options on that menu, it becomes a choice to eat healthily or not. How is a restaurant to blame for people making their own decisions?
Moreover, are all these schoolchildren virtuosic young documentary filmmakers, and – inspired by the likes of Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” – making three trips a day, one for every meal, to McDonald’s? No. No, they aren’t.
As a child myself, sometimes schedules were hectic and we wound up a couple times a week at McDonald’s, but it’s not like we moved the family dining set into the restaurant and made it a second home. It was a treat. Something special. We knew damn well our folks weren’t going to raise us with an expectation for nightly fast-food dinners.
Which brings me to ask, who, California lawmakers, are you blaming for these decisions? McDonald’s? What do you think they are, a 50’s diner with a sassy waitress who’ll have some sort of recommendation for you when you go up to order, and ask “What’s good?” Nope.
Is little Timmy rummaging through his Velcro, SpongeBob Square Pants wallet, and coughing up the money to buy his Happy Meal? Likely not. If the kid can’t reach the counter, I’m guessing he’s not ordering his own meals, either.
So it comes down to the parents. Who – at least as far as this legislation is concerned – are not being blamed for the problem at hand. They are the ones driving the car to the restaurant. They are the ones giving the order, whether it is over a drive-thru intercom, or a restaurant counter. And they are the ones who cough up the change when it comes times to pay for the meal. Even though their child may have a PREFERENCE in what their meal is, they, ultimately, are not making the final decision. The parent is.
Placing the majority of the blame and making a media scapegoat of McDonald’s is far from a solution to the problem, too. They aren’t the only fast-food establishment in America, and they certainly can’t be placed with 100% of the blame for childhood obesity.
Mind you, this is if issue was taken with the food. Here, however, the issue is with the toy.
Not the cheeseburger.
Or the French fries.
Nope. The toy.
I know that, after a long day of classes [and maybe even some extra-curriculars], there was nothing more satisfying than a nice, inedible, plastic toy. Or, if ever Kay Bee Toys was closing early, I knew I could just head right over to the nearest Mickey D’s and pick up something fun to play with, like a cheeseburger.
Again, the amazing logic of the California legal system at work, folks.
The toys don’t make people fat. Food makes people fat. If the child is so hungry he eats the toy because the meal wasn’t satisfying enough, well, that a whole other problem of a different sort.
The best part of all this? What really gives me a good laugh?
Let’s look at a typical Happy Meal: McNuggets, a child-sized portion of fries, apple dippers, and a bottle of low-fat milk. How many Chipotle-Burritos’-worth of calories is that gut-bomb packing?
And if little Timmy is on a self-destructive bender and past the point of all hope for a healthy, fit lifestyle, he could substitute the low-fat for chocolate milk.
500 calories! OH, THE HUMANITY!!!
Humanity? No. More like “irony.” Most children actually need more calories in that for a meal.
You want to fight childhood obesity? Fight it in the classroom. Fight it in the school cafeteria. Moreover, don’t fight it at all. This isn’t an MSNBC “Scared Straight” special, and showing a child a plaqued-up cadaver’s heart isn’t going to make him want to eat more broccoli at the dinner table.
If you want to make children aware of healthier food and more nutritious options, you need to make them A.) Aware that there are other choices out there, and B.) That some of those choices actually may taste better, and be more filling, than most of the fast food they’ve become accustomed to.
So, the next time your child finds amusement and joy by messing around and arranging his French fries to spell out words….give a pat on the back.
He’s playing with a more nutritional food.
After all – thank goodness!!! – he’s finally kicked that nasty toy habit.
What’s your take on the Happy Meal situation? Do you think toys are linked to childhood obesity?