Happy Meals . . . not so happy in Santa Clara
So in what might be one of the most absurd pieces of legislation that I have ever heard of some of the children in Santa Clara county (the county we live in) will no longer be able to get a toy in their meal. The county voted today 3-2 to ban the toys in an effort to curb childhood obesity.
I just learned about the proposal yesterday when visiting my local McDonald’s. With an even bigger shock that the vote was today. If I had been able to go to the council meeting this morning I would have been all over it trying to understand this faulty logic.
The ordinance would prohibit restaurants from giving away toys with kids’ meals that are high in fat, sugar and calories. The ban’s reach will be very limited. It will only affect restaurants in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County such as San Martin. (from Mercury News)
Before I get on my issue with the childhood obesity relationship to toys, I am still trying to understand that they limited the ban to unincorporated areas, that with the exception of Stanford, are all less developed and more rural areas of Santa Clara county. I have not been able to locate the text of the this ordinance yet, but am still searching for it.
Now onto the toy = obesity debate: When I choose to take my non-obese children to McDonald’s for dinner, it is my choice. I do not do it for the toy. They are usually cheap and wind up broken or thrown away anyway. I go eat there because the convenience factor for me those days is worth it. I need to feed the children quickly and get where we are going. My daughter eats Kraft Macaroni, apples, and milk from Burger King. I would feed her that at home. So how is getting a toy with the food going to change what people are feeding their children? It’s not. The people who don’t go to fast food restaurants because the food is not healthy (which don’t get me wrong I don’t believe it is all that good for you) are the same people who won’t go there anyway regardless of the toys. And even if this did pass in my area it would not stop me from continuing to drive through on nights when I need a quick meal from my children. The obese children are not a result of fast food restaurants alone. In the brief portion of Food, Inc that I was able to make myself watch, I had to turn it off because I was going to have to stop eating altogether if I continued, profiled a lower-income family that shows how they purchase processed, convience foods or go to fast food restaurants because the healthy non-processed foods are more expensive and on their limited budget or food stamp that cannot afford enough food to feed their families. However, the cheaper processed food provide their families with a full belly after a meal and stay easier on their budget. Is this right? No. I think a reform of the Food Stamps program might be in order to try to increase the ability of the families to purchase healthier food items. So all that said, the people who are “obese” who feed their children at McDonald’s are going to continue to do so because it is cheaper and easier. The toy was just a bonus.
AND from there where does it stop? Stop selling X-Boxes, DS systems, ban Dinosaur Chicken or anything else deemed unhealthy or contributing to obesity in stores? Ultimately this is a parenting decision. You cannot make someone be a good parent. There is no one size fits all direction book for raising or feeding children. It is time for the government to stay out of my house and yours too.
In case you are from the area and were wondering Supervisors Ken Yeager, Liz Kniss and Dave Cortese voted for the ordinance. Supervisors Don Gage and George Shirakawa opposed it. The ordinance will return to the board May 11 for a final vote. It will take effect 90 days after that.
I will be at McDonald’s and Burger King Wednesday night for our weekly dinner on the way to Cub Scouts, happily having the right to still give my children the toy that comes with their meal should I choose too. And if you happen to live in an unincorporated area, then I invite you to come to the fast food chains in the rest of Santa Clara county and continue giving your children toys if you choose, since it is YOUR choice.
Oh yeah as an FYI – you did know you can just go in any buy the toy separately too. I have done that before when we wanted a toy and did not want to eat there. So what’s to stop the affected stores from simply selling them for a quarter with your happy meal purchase?