Jesse McKinley, the San Francisco Bureau Chief for The New York Times, keeps the East-coasters apprised of what’s coming at them from the other side of the realm. In this case, it’s an ordinance — with its final vote coming up in May — that would only affect a dozen or so restaurants in a small area of California. However, the issue has nationwide implications, and has been making news across the country, since the Santa Clara County board of supervisors voted to ban the distribution of toys with children’s meals at fast-food establishments. McKinley quotes the board’s president, Ken Yeager:
What we’re trying to do is de-link the connection between unhealthy food and toys. Why would a kid say ‘I want a burger with fries?’ It’s the toys that they want.
The childless Mr. Yeager is apparently unaware that a kid is quite capable of specifying “I want a burger with fries,” or anything else he or she might want, with gusto and conviction. But that’s not the point. The point is to draw attention to what is considered by many to be an unfair and insidious method of marketing that relies on the ignorance of children about healthy choices, and the weariness of parents who face similar battles on a daily basis.
Some might say, and many do say, that in order to avoid this particular contretemps, a parent might just steer clear of fast-food establishments. Now we’re talking about an entire lifestyle change, which many harried parents just can’t seem to manage.
This is the first time such an ordinance has been attempted to be passed anywhere and, as Yeager notes, the object is not to attack toys but to focus on the problem of juvenile obesity. Unfortunately, the two are inextricably linked since, as Dr. Pretlow notes in Overweight: What Kids Say, the fast-food corporation mainly implicated is one of the largest toy distributors in the world.
If there is any doubt of the connection, Christopher gives first-person testimony on the blog called Get Skinny! Be Happy!:
Once I got my hands on that brightly colored box (with a toy inside), I was hooked. Two years later I was a fat kid.
Your feedback is welcome!
Source: “Citing Obesity of Children, County Bans Fast-Food Toys,” The New York Times, 04/27/10
Source: “Why Do We Overeat?,” Get Skinny! Be Happy!, 04/29/10
Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,” Amazon.com
Image by Mykl Roventine, used under its Creative Commons license.