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Not So Happy Meal

McDonald’s. Anywhere you go it’s hard to escape the golden, glowing arches that symbolizes fast, cheap, and fattening food. If you’ve grown up in the U.S there is a great likelihood you’ve Happy Meal before—unless you’re out in the Meadow and Glad Valley of South Dakota, known as the “McFarthest” point from a McDonald’s (a rough two-hour drive for a Big Mac)…

NotSoHappyMeal

But have you ever been handed your McDouble and Coke by your English teacher?

McDonald’s has a marketing pull, disguised as a fundraiser, and it is called “McTeacher’s Night.” Teachers from low budgeted schools and communities, work behind the counter and serve burgers, fries, and soda to their students and their students’ families. From this, the hosting McDonald’s franchise gives a small percentage of the profit from that night to the school, while still maintaining a significant profit margin. The interested teachers set up a time slot for working at the McDonald’s store and a portion of the profits made in those allotted hours are donated back to the school where those educators teach.

Outside of the cost effectivity (or lack thereof) of this ‘fundraiser,’ these teachers are promoting and serving junk food that is high in calorie, fat, sugar, and sodium content, directly to the students that they teach. I have to sympathize with these teachers, only briefly, in that most of them are dealing with significant budget cuts, inadequate means, and outdated books, to ensure that there is ‘no child left behind.’ However, it completely unacceptable to contribute to the largest preventable health crisis in the U.S. Jesse Sharkey, the Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union stated:

“It is wholly inappropriate for McDonald’s to exploit cash-strapped schools to market its junk food brand, while miring its workers in poverty, effectively hollowing out the tax base for our schools. In Chicago we face potentially devastating cuts to our schools, yet one of the world’s richest corporations operating in our backyard is exploiting this situation by eroding the school food environment and our students’ health in the long-run.” 

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has collaborated with the National Education Association, Corporate Accountability, and over 50 local and state teachers unions to send a letter to McDonald’s to put an end to McTeacher’s Nights. This week happens to be National School Lunch Week. In the spirit of nutrition and the need for climate change, our team here at Earth Day Network is challenging students across the nation to create healthy and environmentally friendly meals that they would like to see in their schools. We want to hear your voice, to accept our National School Lunch Week Challenge, grab a few friends to join your team, click the link, download the toolkit, and make some lunch!

Paula Reser, Intern