We are always hearing that trends start on the coasts and head inland. Luckily Michigan and other Midwest states don’t always follow those trends – particularly the ones that get their start in California (although we might want to follow California’s winning ways in sports).
The latest trend comes from San Francisco where the city’s board of supervisors has voted to prohibit restaurants from giving away toys with meals that have high levels of calories, sugar and fat. If they want to tie toys to meals, the meals have to come with fruits and vegetables, and low-sugar drinks.
The City Supervisor Eric Mar called the measure an instance of “food justice,” and a way to address the epidemic of childhood obesity that is especially problematic in poorer neighborhoods. Naturally, the restaurant industry isn’t as pleased. I had to laugh at a comment I read in the press from a California Restaurant Association spokesman (and evidently, a fan of the city’s World Series Champion Giants). “One day you’re world champions” he said, “and the next day, no toys for you.”
I agree that childhood obesity is a national problem that must be addressed, especially by the fast food restaurants that vastly outnumber grocery stores in our urban markets. When Happy Meals first hit restaurants in 1979, the meals were a whopping 600 calories. Now, according to McDonald’s director of nutrition, the most popular Happy Meal is the four-piece chicken McNugget meal with apple slices, low-fat caramel dip and 1 percent low-fat milk—375 calories in all.
While I have never been a fan of fast food (although there were chicken McNuggets and Frosties in my past), I have been suckered in many times by the toys – even in the years since the kids grew up and moved out. There have been Simpson watches and Star Wars action figures. Who could forget the time in 1997 when McDonald’s gave away more than 100 million Teenie Beanie Babies setting of a national craze? It’s not beyond me to bypass the food and negotiate directly for the toys.
So, San Francisco…I am conflicted. Reasonably priced, healthy alternatives for our children, and adults, are a MUST. I would be happy to see this trend move East. However, please don’t take your anger out on us toy lovers. I beg you, don’t throw out the toys with the calories!