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I’m not havin’ it

(Image courtesy of Matthew Gilson for Time)

As a mom, nothing is more important to me than caring for my children. Taking care of their bodies, minds and spirit is second nature to me.
The sacred bond between mother and child is built on trust and love. It is cherished and nurtured through the daily choices that I make for the health of my children. They depend upon me to make the right choices for them to thrive.

That’s why I am deeply concerned that McDonald’s wants to drive a wedge between me and my children with its exploitative marketing. McDonald’s spends a lot of money trying to drown out the truth I’m telling to my children about healthy food.

Chipping away at my ability to be a credible messenger of health for my children, McDonald’s introduces celebrities, athletes and cartoon charters as the more authentic messengers of health through its targeted marketing campaigns.

For instance: McDonald’s broadcasts images of smiling athletes eating food that is filled with sugar, salt and fat. I know these images are ridiculous: Gabrielle Douglas, Venus Williams and LeBron James do not make a habit of eating McDonald’s food. I know these elite athletes must have an optimal nutritional diet in order to support their talent. But my children do not know this. And if McDonald’s had its way, all kids would believe the myth that athletes eat fast food to fuel their bodies. McDonald’s positions its products in commercials as food that is harmless and fun. The real truth is that a diet of McDonald's food is dangerous to the health of children. 

I’m particularly outraged by McDonald’s targeting children of color. Children of color are already more likely to live in an environment that is devoid of healthy food and are more likely to develop diabetes and other chronic diet-related diseases than their white counterparts.

Not only does McDonald’s use athletes of color in advertising, it also invokes culturally inappropriate stereotypes and borrows liberally from hip hop culture, to aggressively target children of color. Targeted commercials, toy giveaways and culturally based partnerships all are employed to sell more fast food.

McDonald’s global advertising budget for 2010 was $2.3 billion. Moms simply cannot compete with a marketing budget of this size.  In its drive to have complete market dominance, McDonald’s advertising is undermining my role as a parent and the guardian of my children’s health. Targeted marketing to children is nothing more than a ploy to create lifelong consumers of fast, cheap food.

McDonald's wants to influence my children to follow a nutritional path that leads to obesity and consumerism while boosting corporate profits.  I am not lovin’ it!

LaDonna Redmond is a community activist who has successfully worked to get Chicago Public Schools to evaluate junk food policies, launched urban agriculture projects and worked on federal farm policy to expand access to healthy food in low-income communities. She's also co-founder and president of Graffiti and Grub, a grocery store for the hip-hop generation.



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