Oct 01

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? 

Jan 02

Big Cats Trump Champagne This New Year’s

Guest blog written by Maggie O’Neill.

Spending New Year’s Eve in San Francisco this year the buzz on the streets and around cocktail tables wasZoo_sam_and_tiger
not about resolutions and champagne, but rather on big cats and a bizarre Christmas Day tiger attack.  The story had gripped the city, and cities beyond the Bay as well, I am sure. Even my friends in Rome, perusing the cover stories of the International Herald Tribune, read about Tatiana, the Siberian tiger who had escaped her enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo and mauled three young men (one to death) before being shot and killed by the SFPD.

Counter women at Macy’s, Starbuck’s baristas and everyone I spoke to could not help but take a stand for one side or an other. The Bhutto assassination, presidential primaries and Jamie Lynn Spears all took a back seat to Tatiana and the fateful incident at the San Francisco Zoo.

What we know happened this Christmas afternoon is that a young Siberian tiger escaped from its open habitat and mauled three young men.  But one week later, the facts for the most part stop there. You see, no one who should be talking is talking.  Crisis management plans, SF Zoo leadership and cooperation with authorities by the victims are nonexistent.  However, speculation based on a few clues has everyone else coming forward to craft their own story.  PR nightmare, tabloid dream.

Disgruntled employees are claiming they and the animals were treated badly by the Zoo Director, Manuel Mollinedo.  They have told tales about overlooked issues – specifically the fact that Tatiana’s enclosure was almost four feet under regulation height for a Big Cat sanctuary.  Mollinedo has remained relatively silent except for some finger pointing.

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