It’s been a busy time for San Francisco. The Giants win the World Series, a victory of athleticism for the players and a chance for bragging rights for the fans. I, however, am more interested in food, toys, and freedom.

While the state of California was trying to make marijuana legal, the city by the bay was trying to make free toys in happy meals illegal. Only the latter was accomplished.  The parents of obese children can rest easier knowing that someone else is doing their job for them, AND better than them.

The ban on free toys affects meals in restaurants that have more than a certain amount of calories and fat, and requires the meals to have servings of fruit or vegetables. According to a Palm Beach Post article free toys can only be included in meals that have 600 calories or less, with less than 35% calories from fat. San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar calls it “food justice.” I call it hard paternalism.

This outrageous violation of freedom assumes that children alone are making dietary choices, that the “obesity epidemic” can be curbed by eliminating childhood obesity, and that fast food kid’s meals are consumed solely for the free toys involved.

I would like to hear of one story…ONE…where some fat-assed 6-year-old drove a car through the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant, ordered a kid’s meal, paid for it, and drove away to consume the meal. I doubt it has ever happened. Why? Because there is likely no kid with so little supervision that they could accomplish such a feat without raising a lot of alarm. Even if, in a freak occurence, it did happen, how could that even be considered a menace to public health?

My point is that parents make the dietary decisions for their children. They have the money and the car keys. They are the ones purchasing the high calorie meals. Is it for the free toys? Is it to shut the little buggers up? Or is it a matter on convenience?

I have known parents that will “grab something quick” for dinner. This means hitting up the drive-thru window for the family dinner. Taking away toys doesn’t factor out convenience. Some parents work hard and have a bunch of kids that need to be fed. If you’re exhausted from working a job or two and taking care of a family (whether you’re doing it alone or not), you may not want to go home and prepare a perfectly balanced and portioned meal. The alternative is to pick up some burgers and fries and get on with your life. Toys are just a little something extra.

Also, since the parents are making the decisions over what’s for dinner, they are also participating in the consumption of these foods. There is no toy in a Big Mac combo, but it’s still a popular sandwich. The McRib is disgusting and high in fat, but people love it and eat the hell out of it. People are still making poor dietary decisions but it’s easy to punish the children, as long as you have the argument “think of the children!”

True, children lack the cognitive capacity to make choices with the future and their health in mind. I think the idea is to keep happy feelings and memories from being associated with particular foods. This is a fair argument. However, when the kids grow, they will be able to make their own decisions, good or bad. Taking away the toy to break that association, isn’t going to do a thing.

 Parents who feed their kids crap will continue to do so, the government isn’t going to change their parenting style. Children are going to learn the habits of their parents no matter what. With any luck, they’ll have the will power and smarts to take care of their health when they’re grown up, but until then, leave the fat kids alone and let them have their toys!

  1. Michael G. says:

    I hear what you are saying, but there is a flip side to that coin.

    Maybe it’s not about punishing the child or blaming the parents, perhaps it’s about the restaurant chains that target kids by including toys with their meal. Studies have shown that kids have too much power over what and where they eat.

    This sends a message to food chains that if you want to target kids you better lift your game. They are not asked to make their menu healthy, just become more responsible.

    Whatever we as a nation do to curb childhood obesity, it is going to impinge on someones freedom – that’s a fact. But it’s better than doing nothing at all.

    • mehbeer says:

      Is it ok to chip away at freedoms for something that isn’t going to change anything?

      With a ban on free toys are kids going to suddenly become healthy eaters who love their vegetables and hate french fries and soda pop? Are parents going to change their eating habits and their kid’s eating habits? If it were that easy do you think there would be an “obesity problem?”

      Also, as a matter of fact, these restaurants are being asked to make their menus healthy. Trans fats are banned, they have to include fruit or vegetables in their meals targeted towards children…salt content will probably be the next to go. If it’s what the consumer base as a whole wants, then that’s fine, that’s business. If it’s a few nosy nannies trying to force healthy habits on the rest of us, it’s paternalism. I don’t like being told I don’t deserve to take responsibility for myself because I’ll just screw it up….do you?

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