Happy Meals may turn to frowns Tuesday night as the Los Angeles school board debates ending McDonald’s participation in campus fundraising events because of student health concerns.
Two resolutions will be introduced at Tuesday’s Los Angeles Board of Education meeting — one that would ban “McTeacher’s Night” school fundraisers hosted by McDonald’s restaurants, and one ordering district officials to develop a vegan option for every cafeteria meal.
The L.A. Unified School District “has a strong interest in and obligation to promote the health of children, which leads to better attendance, improved behavior, lower incidence of illness, and increased attention, creativity and academic achievement,” states the preamble to the fundraising restrictions, according to the Los Angeles Times.
An “epidemic” of diet-related disease “disproportionately impacts communities of color,” the resolution adds. “Studies have shown these children are also disproportionately targeted in marketing.”
District guidelines already prohibit schools from seeking sponsorship from corporations that market, sell or produce products that may be harmful to children, including alcohol and firearms as well as high-fat and high-calorie foods and drinks.
Still, McTeacher promotions have taken place more than 120 times from 2013 through 2016, according to research provided by the Boston nonprofit Corporate Accountability International, The Times reported.
“This is about being sure that our policies actually mean something, that weíre not directly participating in the marketing of food with high- caloric, high-fat content,” said school board President Steve Zimmer, who sponsored the resolution along with board members George McKenna and Richard Vladovic.
Across the country, even districts that officially forbid these fundraisers “allow events that occur outside of school hours — in spite of the fact that administrators often advertise such events during school hours,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, a campaign director for Corporate Accountability International, in remarks reported by The Times.
“To our knowledge, LAUSD is the only school district that has taken this step — namely, to entirely end junk food sponsorships within the district.”
McDonald’s previously said it compiled data for the 10 percent of U.S. McDonald’s restaurants it owns directly. From January 2013 through September 2015, these outlets raised more than $2.5 million at McTeacher’s Nights, the corporation has said, according to The Times.
As for the vegan alternative entrees, even before the resolution surfaced, district food services was looking into options, and planned to launch a pilot program next fall, said its director, Joseph K. Vaughn.
The resolution being introduced Tuesday will be voted on at the next meeting and would effectively mandate a pilot program. It gives officials 90 days to prepare a plan to expand vegan options beyond what will be available in the fall tryout, The Times reported.
—City News Service
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