Toys don’t contain calories. Or do they?

Guest Post by Maddy Gale, Peppercom

Happy meal This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is meeting to discuss an ordinance concerning toy giveaways in fast food meals marketed to children. The toys won’t be eliminated completely, but will be limited to children’s meals that fit into a set range of calories, fat, salt, and sugar decided on by the city.

Living in San Francisco, and watching a similar situation unfold concerning sugary drinks and city vending machines, I am not at all surprised by this news. But I am a bit torn.

I’m a good liberal arts college grad, having attended school in southern California where fruits and vegetables are bountiful year-round, and whose student body regularly spoke with school administration about where we sourced the food for our dining hall. Now that I live in San Francisco, I frequent the weekly farmers’ market clutching Michael Pollan’s newest sermon while stuffing my reusable bag full and discussing the biographies of my produce with the growers. I’m revolted by fast food chains and often find myself in conversation about the likes of McDonalds and Burger King and their ability to literally make a killing manufacturing highly processed, chemically flavored products and selling them as “food.” 

I seem like the type who would whole-heartedly support something that would upset and potentially damage the sales of fast food. But I’m not—at least not in this situation. Despite my desire to rally the type of enthusiasm I have for swiss chard and eggplants in the hearts and minds of all Americans, I do not think limiting the number of plastic toys that lay coated in French fry grease at the bottom of a child’s Happy Meal is the best way for city officials to encourage San Francisco’s youth to eat healthier.

Neither does Mayor Gavin Newsom who, according to his spokesman Tony Winnicker, believes dictating “what plastic toys can be put in a cardboard box is not the right way to achieve [getting kids to eat better].”

So who besides the Board of Supervisors thinks this ordinance will do any good? I can only guess the parents who are allowing their children to have the final say on what’s on their dinner plate—or tray in this instance. Perhaps these parents who are unwilling to withstand the tantrums and demands of their little cherubs every time they drive by a fast food chain are hoping that the city can suppress their kids’ desires by eliminating one part of the advertised meal. The part they can’t even eat. 

A child can’t make it to the drive-up window or down the street to sit inside the restaurant by themselves—a caregiver is the one taking them and asking if they want extra cheese on their burger. 

I appreciate what the Board of Supervisors is trying to do – encourage healthy living and keep health care costs in check. But this potential ordinance is just one of the many examples of children being victimized in the “obesity epidemic.” When is the country going to realize parents and caregivers are the ones who play the key role in supporting their growing kids – not the government? 

2 thoughts on “Toys don’t contain calories. Or do they?

  1. Like you, Maddy, I’m an ardent visitor to my weekly farmers’ market. I run several miles most days of the week and am an active participant in my health both through what i eat and by keeping active. And when I was a kid, happy meals most definitely had toys. Yet somehow, I managed to grow up with this healthy mindset (and for the record, my brother is the same way).
    Also, like you, i find it hard to blame the toys in happy meals for being a major contributor to the obesity crisis, because at the end of the day, it’s not the kids who have the final say in what ends up on their dinner plate. I suspect, it’s more a factor of convenience. It takes real effort to figure out what to do with all those veggies, plus the actual time to cook them. Though, I have trouble with that argument as well, as my mom – a single mother with a full-time job – still managed to put a healthy meal on the table everyday.
    Maybe it goes back to rep’s post earlier in the week about the boorish behavior of today’s kids. Perhaps if parents went back to actually parenting and instilling good behavior and habits into their children we’d solve a lot of our problems.