Health groups have today condemned McDonald's for seeking to promote its unhealthy products to children in schools, kindergartens and early childhood centres.
Members of the Mildura community were dismayed to find that McDonald's had written to schools in the community encouraging them to have McDonald's products, including burgers, fries, nuggets and desserts, delivered to their students, with incentives for participation such as cash rebates and free drinks.
The letter, which was passed on to The Parents' Jury and the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) by a concerned Mildura parent, outlines the 'McDonald's School Support Program' where food can be ordered for lunch days, fundraisers, end of term treats and for school excursions and functions.
Campaign Manager for The Parents' Jury, Dimity Gannon, says "Allowing McDonald's to be promoted in schools normalizes the consumption of fast food, undermining both parents' and schools' efforts to teach children about nutrition and instill healthy eating habits.
"Some schools might fall into the trap of taking up this offer because they see it as an opportunity to fundraise. However, the financial benefit for schools is minimal while McDonald's benefit greatly by marketing to a captive audience of hundreds of children."
Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the OPC, says attempts by McDonald's to promote its unhealthy food to entire schools of children are insidious.
"This deliberate targeting of children in these settings shows that McDonald's is putting profit ahead of children's health. This is from a company that claims to be committed to ‘responsible' advertising to children," she says.
"The Australian Health Survey 2011-2012 shows that children are eating way too many energy dense, nutrient poor ‘discretionary foods' that are not necessary in the diet , with very few consuming recommended quantities of fruit and vegetables .
"The Victorian State Government's Healthy Together Victoria initiative in Mildura is doing a great job of supporting schools to create healthy canteen menus and implement healthy fundraising activities. Making McDonald's available in schools would undermine this positive work."
The Parents' Jury and the Obesity Policy Coalition have each written to McDonald's urging them to immediately stop the McDonald's ‘School Support Program' in Mildura and cease all promotion of McDonald's branding and products in schools across Australia.
1 The Australian Health Survey 2011-12 found that on average, just over one-third (35%) of total daily energy reported as consumed was from 'discretionary foods' (foods and drinks not necessary to provide the nutrients the body needs). The proportion of energy from discretionary foods was lowest among the 2-3 year old children (30%) and highest among the 14-18 year olds (41%).
2 The Australian Health Survey 2011-12 found that only a small minority of Australians (including most children’s age groups) are consume recommended levels of fruit and vegetables.