Food And Toys

Like many young children, it didn’t take our kids long to gain an appreciation for fast food. Zachary, a prolific eater of chicken nuggets, seems to prefer the McDonald’s variety over any other brand or restaurant chain, while Grace favors McDonald’s hamburgers. Sure, they like Burger King, too, and won’t turn down a trip there if it’s offered, but McDonald’s – for whatever reason – holds the top spot for eating out. Somewhat sadly, the Worthington McDonald’s restaurant was one of the first "landmarks" each of our children could identify on their own. "Donnies!" Grace has exclaimed excitedly for a good couple of years. Zachary manages a somewhat garbled version of "McDonald’s" – perhaps that’s because he’s already imagining some delicious french fries in his mouth.

Our kids’ McDonald’s fascination was the reason I took notice at a recent news item on the National Public Radio website. The headline for the story was "California County Takes Step Toward Banning Toys in ‘Happy Meals’"

Here’s the gist: McDonald’s and other restaurants that offer toys to young children with their meals are being targeted by supervisors in the Golden State’s Santa Clara County. They want to ban these sorts of promotions "unless the restaurants meet nutritional guidelines," according to the Los Angeles Times. The proposed ordinance, according to The Associated Press, is the first of its kind in the country.

Reported the Times: "As a compromise to win majority support, the five-member board agreed to put off implementing the measure for 90 days, to give the fast-food industry time to come up with a voluntary program for improving the nutritional value of children’s meals." 

I didn’t need a lot of time to, er, digest this information before forming my opinion. In a nutshell, it’s this: Give me a break – and keep giving us our toys if that’s the choice we make.

This is another another classic example of government battle trying to make decisions that constituents are more than capable of making for themselves. And it’s not that that the kids who love the toys – and the fast food, for that matter – are the ones making the choice to drive on over to Mickey Dee’s or BK and eat there. The parents are making those calls, and if Mom and Dad don’t want their kids to a meal from those establishments, that’s their move.

I think it’s safe to say that most parents – including us – know that fast food isn’t exactly steeped in nutritional value. I also think that many parents decide to eat out at these kind of places for the kind of reasons we do, including bad day, pressed for time, tired, realized what was supposed to be for dinner isn’t in the house, etc. … or maybe just as a special (once in a great while) treat. If these factors are causing parents to bring their kids to eat fast food regularly, then I think those moms and dads need a serious wake-up call.

On a personal note, I can say assuredly that G&Z don’t want to go out to get fast food because of the toys. Sure, they’re an added bonus, but I think most of all they enjoy the food and the mere fact that it’s a meal out (not that they don’t like our cooking, but I think they see it as a sort of gift – and they get especially excited if we stay at the restaurant of choice and eat there). Many of the toys we get with the kids’ meals aren’t exactly the most durable or appealing, anyway.

Surely the elected officials of Santa Clara County have more critical issues to get involved in this.