Please turn on JavaScript

Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Another Skirmish in the Happy Meals War

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Skirmish in the Happy Meals War

New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie would have his city join San Francisco’s attack on fast food chains that sell toys with meals deemed inappropriate for children by a political authority (“NYC Councilman Leroy Comrie Proposes Bill Banning ‘Happy Meals’”).  He would require that toy laden meals be light on calories, fat and sodium.  Without proof, or at least without proof proffered in the article he finds malevolent design in corporate headquarters.
It comes as no surprise that these ads and meals are also targeted in low income and minority neighborhoods that are already at risk for childhood obesity. These are the same communities that have limited access to supermarkets, limited access to healthy food options.
Assuming that fast food ads target low income and minority neighborhoods, I interpret corporate decisions differently.  Corporate decision makers are expanding opportunities of residents by offering food that provides the biggest bang for the consumer buck.  If parents want “healthy” food, these restaurants will provided it.  One wonders how Comrie views parents. His statement suggests that they have limited options, yet markets provide options that consumers desire.  His law suggests that parents are incompetent to make proper choices for their children without the guiding hand of a benevolent government.

In the article, Mason Smoot, vice president and general manager for McDonald’s in the New York Metro Area, offers a different view, my view.
Our Happy Meals make it easier for families to choose the right foods in portions just for kids. We provide options for our customers and trust them to make the decisions that are right for their families. Politicians should too.


  1. I completely agree with Mason Smoot. We don't put enough emphasis on the responsibility of the parents to teach their children healthy choices. I do not know the statistics, but from what I see in my daily life, most obese children have obese parents. The rise in childhood obesity has also seemed to be partnered with the increased technology of video games, cell phones, and internet options such as social sites and gaming sites. Not to sound cliche, but I didn't have any of these growing up in a low income family in a low income neighborhood, ironically for this article, in New York. We were forced to play outside out of boredom inside and only a handful of my friends and classmates growing up were even overweight. We were "allowed" McDonald's as a treat about once a month. The rest of the time we always ate our meals at home. It's okay to have an "unhealthy" meal on occassion for an active child (or even adult) but it's a lifestyle choice these parents are making, and training their children in their footsteps.

  2. Morgan Heeke3/7/11 11:20 PM

    Mason Smoot raises a valid argument. Parents are indeed responsible for instilling proper eating habits to their children. If parents don't teach their children, who else will. We all know America is the fattest nation in the world and we need to do something to prevent further obesity. Fast food at one point in time was not the enemy. For a low income family, places like McDonald's are the easiest way to feed a family. It is their decision on what to purchase their child; the restaurant cannot decide for the parents.

  3. Brittney Eskew

    It is 100% the parent’s responsibility to decide what their child is going to eat. As long fast food chains offer a healthier option that is all they can do. I personally don’t think fast food is the cheapest way to feed a family. You can go to the grocery store and buy the stuff to make spaghetti for cheaper if you are feeding more than one person. I don’t feel that limited access to supermarkets or healthy food options is the problem; I honestly think laziness plays a bigger part.