Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Meals Equal Literacy?

Recently, Yahoo news had a headline that stopped me dead in my tracks. It read, “Could McDonalds’ become a leading book retailer?” My first thought was, “here we go, another crazy marketing scheme.” So of course, I had to click the link and read what it was about. It stated that McDonald's would be substituting their Happy Meal toys with a book to promote literacy for the children in Britain. As I read the article, I am perplexed and pretty disturbed that the review from Britain’s Literary Trust is a positive one. "One in three children in this country don't own a book, which is extremely concerning as there is a clear link between book ownership and children's future success in life," says director Jonathan Douglas. "We are very supportive of McDonald’s decision.”

A part of me gets the feeling that the mighty Mickey-D’s has lined the pockets of the British Literary world.

And to add to that I say, ahh, McDonald’s, we meet again. Just when I thought you couldn’t out do your evil ploys to lure people into eating your artery clogging, obese inducing, fat-laden, salty sustenance, you launch a marketing campaign attempting to veil your fake foods by luring children to connect reading with french fries. I have to say, this has to be one of the best schemes ever. With past campaigns as the illustrious McRib comeback (gag), the highly addictive Monopoly game (guilty) and providing ‘healthy’ choices like organic milk and Newmans’ coffee (feeble attempt), I stumble upon your latest ploy; trying to pass yourself off as a reputable establishment to promote literacy in children. Of course, you won't just settle for any old book, no. You team up with Michael Morpurgo, to promote his award-winning Mudpuddle Farm stories. 

A genius attempt I say.

But how could this be? You are not Barnes and Noble, nor are you Amazon. Heck, you're not even a parent. I say stick to what you know; fats and calories, brainwashing and manipulating adults and children around the world to gorge on your food.

Furthermore, how dare you attempt to come across to parents and children as a place that provides good food for the mind when you can’t provide good food for the body? Please, stop and think about this. While reading these books, the children will be consuming over 500 calories and over 20 grams of fat, with every book they acquire. Then times those numbers by six. That’s if they are lucky enough to get a different book with each meal purchased.
It's clearly apparent that the only thing that is being fed is the shareholders pockets.
Now, I'm sure that your public relations team would inform me that it is truly up to the parent to decide whether or not to purchase a Happy Meal for their children and that you are not solely responsible for the obesity issue in American children today. This may be true, however, if you took the money profited from this ‘literacy’ campaign and put it to completely revamping your menu, scale back the strong subliminal messages that your food equals happiness, or that getting a nine cent toy that will be thrown away in a matter of months (thank you for contributing to the global carbon footprint) maybe, just maybe McDonald's Happy Meals won’t be so addictive to a child, like heroin is to an addict.

Please allow me enlighten you on some facts (as if you already didn't know). According to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, “Currently 15% of US youth are overweight, a prevalence nearly twice as high in children and three times as high in adolescents compared to 1980 prevalence rates. Almost two-thirds (60%) of overweight children have at least one cardiovascular risk factor (e.g., hypertension, hyperlipidemia) and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is increasing in youth.”

Regardless of whether you think the parent is responsible for this or not is irrelevant. The food that you are providing is a direct link to heart disease. Period. Frankly I don’t know how you sleep at night.  Let’s continue.

IJBHPA states, “While multiple factors influence eating behaviors and food choices of youth, one potent force is food advertising. Today's youth live in a media-saturated environment. Over the past 10 years, US children and adolescents have increasingly been targeted with intensive and aggressive forms of food marketing and advertising practices through a range of channels.” I could go on, but I won’t. I think you already know the statistics and frankly don’t care about the health of children in the years to come. This is just another tactic to gain the urge of millions of people to eat an abundance of your food in order just to be given the opportunity to be turned on to books.

Just one flaw with that. If a child isn't interested in books, it will have to take a whole lot more than six McDonald's visits to hook them. It will however, hook them on Happy Meals just after six visits.

Mission accomplished.

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