Monday, July 04, 2011

Ottawa-Carleton School Board still in bed with McDonald's


Longer term readers may remember my post from last year regarding the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board's School Bus Safety Awareness Day, where along with learning about school bus safety, pre-school children are courted by McDonald's characters with McDonald's colouring books, "refreshments", and coupons for McDonald's soft-serve ice-cream.

The school board, upset with my characterization of the day, contacted me, and explained to me that despite their belief the learning was essential, that attendance wasn't mandatory (nix that essential bit), and that kids who didn't attend the McDonald's fest, would in fact receive school bus safety education at school.

I summed up my concerns stating,

"While I'm flabbergasted that the Ottawa School Board doesn't see any problem handing out sugary juice drinks, chocolate chip granola bars and soft-serve ice cream coupons to preschoolers, I'm absolutely appalled that the Ottawa School Board invites anyone, let alone McDonald's, to target innocent 4 year olds with advertising all in the name of a program that they themselves apparently recognize as being non-essential and easily taught at school."
So while I don't have much new to add this year, I wanted to bring it to my readers' attentions once again, as it's still here.

This year, I'm not the only one outraged.

Marc L., a parent and regular reader, sent me the scan of this year's flyer. Here's what Marc had to say about McDonald's day,
"When I received the invitation email/poster from my kids' school, I was flabbergasted! I can't believe the school boards are accepting sponsorship from McDonald's for this activity.

I don't think the activity itself is a complete waste of time, as it may help some anxious kids to familiarize themselves with the school bus before the first day of school. However, to be bombarded by McDonald's advertising and products that day, at the vulnerable age of 4, is wrong.

This is just another example of McDonald's doing whatever it can to reel in another generation of kids!

Look around you, our current generation's poor state of health is due in large part to junk food. We are dealing with an epidemic of obesity, leading to diabetes, heart disease and a host of other diseases. This is due in large part to the abundance of cheap, easily accessible junk food, which McDonald's actively promotes on a daily basis.

Are 4-year-olds capable of making informed decisions? NO! They are easily influenced and this type of activity drills in the message that McDonald's is the "good guy". This forms the child's schema of McDonald's and can definitely influence their attitude towards fast food for years to come (and McDonald's knows this all too well!).

We, as parents, have the responsibility of educating our children and leading by example.

The school boards also have an important role to play, as they spend more time with our children than we do as parents.

Should this activity be cancelled? No.

Should Yoni Freedhoff or BMI pay for it? No.

Should we boycott it on principle? Maybe.

I'll leave that up to the parents out there. As for myself, I think I'll pass."
(Interesting - no mention of McDonald's is made on the school board's official website for the "safety" day, yet that flyer sent to parents scanned in up above sure makes it clear what'll be going on.)