Ronald Retiring? Who'll Scare Kids From Fast Food Now?

Adriana Velez

ronald in parade
Poor Ronald is getting tired.
Ronald McDonald, that freaky, red-wigged clown with the anatomically impossible feet, may have been the last thing keeping your kids away from fast food. "But mom, I want a Happy Meal and a toy!" they whine. And you say, "Yes, but that scary clown might be there! Bwa ha ha ha ha!" Suddenly they are agreeing to baby carrots and kale chips from Trader Joe's for lunch instead.

What? You never took that approach?

Well, none of us will be able to play that card if Ronald retires. The latest campaign against fast food is calling upon Ronald McDonald to quit. Somehow I'm thinking it's going to take more than a clown getting axed to change how Americans feed their kids.

Have you seen the Retire Ronald campaign? Over 500 health professionals have signed on to it. Quick show of hands, how many of you get dragged to McDonald's because your kid wants to see Ronald? Yeah, that's what I thought. Supposedly, this campaign is more about marketing than Ronald.

I get it. Fast food marketing makes parents' jobs harder. If junk food commercials are in your kids' faces every time they watch TV or ride in the car (signs everywhere, on the radio), they're going to ask for it. And all of us parents get tired of saying "no" all the time. It's a testament to their resiliency and optimism that kids continue asking for stuff even when faced with 0.01 odds of getting a "yes." 

I think most parents would be relieved, or at least neutral, if all fast food marketing disappeared. We all still know where to find the French fries when we're ready for a treat. So whatever, knock yourselves out, Ronald haters.

What I want to know is, what are we doing -- and what are we asking fast food companies to do -- to help us feed our kids better? What kind of support are parents getting?

Here's what I'd like fast food companies to do, and it's pretty simple:

1. Make the healthy options as affordable as the unhealthy options. Let's see the same per-volume prices for soda and milk. Let's see salads cost the same as hamburgers. Let's see apple slices cost the same as French fries. You may have to raise prices on the junk food options in order to lower the price on the healthy options -- just an idea.

2. Don't junk up the healthy options while you're at it. Why does the oatmeal need as much sugar as a Snickers bar? 

3. Now market the hell out of those healthy options. If you can have a "Hamburglar" (remember that?) and a Grimace (WTF was that about, anyway?), you can have some sort of baby carrot character. You can write songs about salad. Pull way back on the junk marketing and ramp up the healthy food marketing. 

Can you imagine a world where your kids call from the back seat, "Mom, can we get some apple slices from McDonald's?" It sounds insane and impossible, I know. But just imagine. I'm lovin' it.


Image via mooshkie altgeld/Flickr

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