American Feast - Only Santa Claus is Better Known to Kids than Ronald McDonald

November 20, 2009

by Jeff Deasy

My niece and her husband are some of the best informed people I know when it comes to food and nutrition. Once they were looking after a young child and took her on a day trip. Riding home in the car it was time to get a bite to eat. The child asked if they could go to McDonald's. Not wanting to feed the child unhealthy food they said there was no McDonald's in the area. Though still too young to read, the child spotted a pair of golden arches and exclaimed that there was one just ahead.

Once again, advertising made it happen.

McDonald’s CEO James Skinner says "Ronald [McDonald] has never sold food to kids in the history of his existence." Can this possibly be true? To find out, Corporate Accountability International’s Value [the] Meal campaign supporters have launched the nationwide “Where’s Ronald?” scavenger hunt to expose how McDonald’s uses the clown as a marketing tactic to hook our kids on fast food.

Save for Santa Claus, no icon is more recognized by our children than Ronald McDonald. This wouldn’t be so bad if he were bringing them gifts – but in reality he’s hooking them on unhealthy food for a lifetime. “Just as Joe Camel lured a generation of kids to cigarettes, Ronald McDonald is luring the next to meals that are unhappily high in salt, sugar, and fat,” said campaign director, Judy Grant.

Despite Skinner’s claims that Ronald doesn’t’ market food to children, the clown has already been sighted on internet sites that children use, on commercials during children’s programming, and hosting events and parties for children in cities across the country.

Where will Ronald turn up next? It’s easy to help find him, and it’s as easy as the click of a camera phone! Participants will help build a powerful record of where and how McDonald’s uses this marketing icon – and could win some fun prizes from Corporate Accountability International.

“Once you get started looking for Ronald, you'll see how even the most informed and vigilant parents face an uphill battle to make sure their children eat healthy,” said Grant.

“So much of McDonald's marketing aims to bypass parents influence entirely!”

Details on how to participate in the scavenger hunt – and on the impact of the fast food industry on children’s health - are available at: Where’s Ronald?

Read the blog entry at American Feast's Sustainable Food Blog.

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