On July 26 McDonald’s announced a big change with its Happy Meal by adding apples. Yeah! I was excited and so was every children’s rights advocacy group. This was pleasant news for a Tuesday. I knew there might be more to the story and something was brewing. Do you remember that McDonald’s made this same announcement in 2004? Duh, Ronald? I thought you already had apples.
Articles are reporting that first lady Michelle Obama, advocacy groups and parents are expecting McDonald’s to take the fall for all that is unhealthy in the U.S. diet today. So, are you wondering what happened to the apples added in 2004? According to a McDonald’s spokesperson, people come to McDonald’s for choice and control and when tikes are served fruit not fries “there was a huge disappointment factor.”
I was almost sucked in. Why had McDonald’s been singled out from the other fast-food giants? The answer is simple. Burger King’s version of the Happy Meal includes chicken nuggets, apples, a drink and a toy. Wendy’s has no kid’s meal. Subway’s meal includes a 6” sandwich, apples, a drink, a cookie and a cool re-useable bag. Hmmm, they all serve apples.
Today I’ll call the corporate offices of Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway to see how much the “huge disappointment factor” has cost them and thank them for giving parents a choice. I’ll call McDonald’s also to share my disappointment in their inability to follow the lead of their counterparts and to tell the truth. It’s not about the fries. Any parent can purchase a Happy Meal and an order of fries if they want fries with it. What it’s really about is saving a new generation of kids from expecting fries with their burgers or nuggets. It is about choice and control.
Valora Starr is director for discipleship for Women of the ELCA; in that role she oversees the organization’s health initiative, Raising Up Healthy Women and Girls.