More than 17% of kids and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. Since 1980 the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for kids aged 2-5 years as well for adolescents aged 12-19 years and has more than tripled for kids aged 6-11 years, equaling 9 million obese kids 6 years old and up. If this trend continues, 1/3 of kids born since 2000 will develop type-2 diabetes in their lifetime; a disease that is directly linked to heart attack, stroke, blindness, amputation, and kidney disease. Meanwhile there has been a three decade long bull market in advertising to kids who now watch more than 40,000 commercials a year (up from 20,000 in the late 1970s), the vast majority of which advertise junk food - candy (32%), cereal (31%), and fast-food restaurants (9% = more than 3,600 commercials a year).
And unfortunately it works - a recent study by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that 40% of kids nagged their parents to go to McDonald's at least once a week and 15% of preschoolers asked to do so every day. According to the study, teens on average order 800 to 1,100 calories in a single meal (30% of which come from saturated fat or sugar) - which is half of their recommended daily caloric intake. And of 3,039 possible kids meal combinations (think McDonald's Happy Meal), only 12 met the nutritional criteria that the researchers set for preschoolers and only 15 did so for older kids!
Happily, McDonald’s recently put Happy Meals on a diet, more than halving the amount of french fries and adding fruit to the box in an effort to reduce calories by 20%. Unhappily, the average Happy Meal is still high in fat and sodium, is responsible for more than a third of a kid’s recommended caloric intake, and contains a toy to induce purchase by creating a ‘junk food is fun food’ connection.
Recently, San Francisco - in an effort to de-junk its kids' diets - passed an ordinance that prohibits fast-food restaurants from including free toys in kids meals that don't comply with the city’s nutritional standards.
The “Happy Meal ban" goes into effect TODAY (12/1/11) but McDonald's has already found a way to undermine it, by charging 10 cents for the toy. To mask the extremity of its corporate cynicism and disguise its civic contempt, proceeds from the toy sales will be used to help build a new Ronald McDonald House.
To show our support for the city of San Francisco and to make a small contribution to de-junking your kids’ lives, for every meal over $12 that you order @ 4food Madison Avenue next week (12/5 - 12/10) an accompanying kid eats for free.
The Chartbeat will return next week …