Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Truth about McDonald's and Children

Every waking moment of our lives, we swim in an ocean of advertising, all of it telling us the same thing: consume, consume. And then consume some more. The epidemic of overconsumption begins with the things we put in our mouths.

But the truly shocking thing is that we've taught our kids how to be fat, too. In the past 20 years, the rate of obesity has doubled in children and trebled in teenagers. Kids are starting to clock in as obese as early as the age of two. If we find that surprising, we shouldn't.

Ray Kroc, the man behind the McDonald's empire, understood from Day McOne that youngsters were his target market. He had no sooner bought the company from the McDonald brothers than Ronald McDonald was brought in to attract the kiddies to the burgers and shakes.

But to this day you'll never see Ronald McDonald eating the food; not in any commercial. He dances and sings, grins and giggles, and smiles at the kids while they stuff their faces, but he never touches the grub. Why? Presumably because, as the late Eazy-E said in the song "The Dopeman": "Don't get high off your own supply."

Kroc also understood the value of promoting McDonald's as a caring, family-friendly sort of place, a place with a heart, not heart disease. Thus the Ronald McDonald House Charities were born.

Talking of which, one of the most shocking things I saw during my McMonth was a McDonald's in Texas Children's Hospital. In fact, hospitals across the US have fast-food franchises in them. The top-ranked pediatric hospital in the country, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has a McDonald's outlet....


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