It’s no secret that our nation is lacking in the food education department. I certainly never learned to cook in school let alone learn to cook quick, healthy meals. School also never taught me or my classmates to see through false health claims or decipher nutritonal information.
But never fear – McDonald’s is here!
When I discovered McDonald’s latest advertising campaign, Happy Meal Chefs, I was appalled — as always — but not surprised. In a nutshell, the Happy Meal Chefs competition invites children age 8 to 11 (together with their parent or guardian) to create a short video showing McDonald’s how they “make family mealtime fun while making wholesome choices.”
What can you win for participating? Ten children selected as Happy Meal Chef finalists will win a trip to the London Olympics (a prize that fits well with the industry’s harmful overemphasis on physical activity) and 2 Grand Prize winners will score a VIP trip to McDonald’s Headquarters to help McDonald’s Chef Dan cook up possible new items for the Happy Meal. The likely result? Lifetime love of McD’s along with the parent and child’s association of ‘wholesome cooking’ with the Happy Meal. Definitely a win for McDonald’s.
The best part is that the website contains the standard disclaimer that McDonald’s uses to absolve them of all responsibility for their actions: “Hey Kids, this is advertising.” The same disclaimer is on their websites for young children: HappyMealWorld.com (where you can enter your Happy Meal codes!) and McWorld (explore McWorld with your own personalized character!).
(Wondering why marketing to children is a problem in the first place? I’m not going to cover that today, but I recommend reading Michele Simon’s post on Grist, Why the Happy Meal is a Crime, for a primer!)