Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why I oppose toys in fast food (and why you should)


When I directed City Year in San Jose, we called this a "ripple", as in, the waves that radiate out from a rock dropped in a pond that get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

The alert reader will remember my wacky, mixed-up support for Ken Yeager's new law passed on April 25. Ken is the President of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Clara County, where it is now illegal to sell fast food meals with toys inside. This made national news, you'll recall.

Fast forward to today.

I'm as supportive of the law as I was when it passed, but to offer equal time, here is an opposing viewpoint that mirrors the opinion of many in our community and others. I support the ban, which actually affects very few fast food restaurants in the county (and NO McDonalds), and I'll share my opinion by paraphrasing what I said publicly when the law was being debated:

"President Yeager, members of the board, when I first heard about this proposed ordinance I thought 'come on...surely local government could better spend its time on the budget, or on public safety.' Public safety? Well, that got me thinking.

"And I remembered that as a 17-year-old freshman at San Jose State University, in 1985, it was common practice for tobacco companies to give away their products free in front of the student union. By the time I graduated, in 1989, they weren't there anymore. Clearly, some policy decision had been made, changing the behavior.

"But policy can change more than behavior; it can change culture and attitude. If those same tobacco companies showed up tomorrow and started giving out 'free samples', I bet the community would be outraged, just as you would be if someone walked into these chambers with a lit cigarette. People would go nuts, yet thirty years ago it was commonplace.

"That's what's at stake here. Kids want the toy, they bug mom and dad for the fast food, and our childhood obesity epidemic is further fuelled. This really is a public health issue, and a seemingly small policy change can - and I think will - ultimately change culture and attitude...and we'll look back on the time when fast food companies lured kids with toys to their meals loaded with sugar, salt and fat, and wonder what we were thinking."

The law passed that morning, national media went ballistic...and here's the punchline (which you already know if you clicked the link above): San Francisco City and County is now proposing a similar ordinance!

So that's the "ripple". I hope it spreads, and believe it will. I welcome all thoughtful responses, as always.

2 comments:

Rene said...

Why attack the toy. Why not attack the calorie content. Look at the new fast food line Chipolte. They stand on the truth that we need to consume more naturally fed animals. Ones that have been able to graze in the fields the way they were created to do. Instead they're being fed corn. An unnatural although edible diet for them. It increases the chance of us getting bacterial infections from the meat we consume. But they won't stop because they can't mass produce meat for all of us without doing it unnaturally. ie: hormones and antibiotics. Let's not attack the toy. It's like putting the gun in prison for the crime. Let's outlaw the criminal people and call a spade a spade. Rene

Ron said...

Whether its toy related or not, "Fast Food" is being blame for problems abroad too. See Fast food 'fuelling Asia diabetes boom' http://bit.ly/df8qsk