McToy-banning fever is sweeping the nation. First the city of San Francisco banned toys in high-fat, high-sugar kiddie meals. Now a City Councilmember from Queens is pushing for a similar law in New York City. This would mean no more toys in your Happy Meal -- unless the food in that meal has less that 500 calories and includes a half a cup of fruit or vegetables or one serving of whole-grain products.
As an organic kale-eating, home-cooking, bona-fide granola you might think I'd be excited about this, but I'm not.
Don't get me wrong. I won't mind at all if the law actually passes. I don't like the idea of marketers manipulating kids (and their tired, hard-working, cash-strapped parents) into buying the kind of food that is slowly poisoning children everwhere. And who knows, maybe if junk-food kiddie meal toys are banned it might make a small dent in the health crisis.
But if we want to help families make healthier choices it's going to take a lot more than taking away the toys. In fact, taking away the toys just makes health advocates look like kill joys. It's a divisive tactic that gets people arguing instead of working together. We're not winning hearts and minds here, folks.
Making healthy choices take a lot of support. Whole communities need to get together and decide they care about health -- and not get lost in arguments over "nanny state" vs. "personal responsibility." My son has had only two kiddie meals in his entire life -- not just because I'm a health zealot but because we happen to live in a rare community that values (and can afford!) healthy food for everyone.
New York City is trying to support healthier choices in more positive ways, too, I guess. There's a program that gets more supermarkets selling fresh produce into poorer neighborhoods, but that's moving at a snail's pace. We're seeing more fresh fruit carts on our streets, and that helps.
But how do we make healthy food as fun and exciting and convenient as french fries and Ice Age Rio toys? How else do we band together and tell fast food companies that we want healthier options? How do we stop shaming each other and start encouraging each other?
We need to get a lot more creative and organized if we want to see real change happen. You'd better think of something clever, quick, too or this McToy ban may invade your city next!
Where do you fall in the ban fast food toys debate?
Image via gadgetdude/Flickr