Take Back the “happy meal”!
So, about this Happy Meal thing.
San Francisco has banned meals targeting kids with toys unless the meal meets certain nutritional criteria. And the internet is lit up with debate and conversation about this idea…some say it is too much government intervention, that we consumers should be able to choose what we eat. Others say it’s about time we protect the health of our kids better – we don’t allow alcohol and cigarette marketing to kids, why allow restaurants to target them with toys and meals that lead to diabetes and heart disease?
May I offer another way of thinking about this: Why does a Happy Meal exist at all?
How is it that we’ve come to a point in this country that a restaurant can produce “edible substances” (I can’t call it food, sorry) of that questionable nature, wrap it up in a bunch of wasteful packaging and include a plastic toy that probably has more nutritional value than the meal itself? Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I’d venture to guess that eating the toy instead of the meal would probably be less harmful to your health. Not a positive move, but probably closer to neutral than the meal is. So why do we as a country have such meals?
They are out there because we buy them.
We buy them because they are cheap.
We buy them because they are so laden with salt, sugar and flavor enhancers that we have grown to like the taste of them.
We buy them because they fill us up and we’ve come to confuse that sensation with fueling ourselves.
We buy them because we no longer think about our food.
And we use our busy lifestyles as an excuse.
I wonder whether we should be thinking about regulating a restaurant’s offerings like this. That is wasted energy on our parts. I think we should be desperately looking around for food.
And maybe we should find ourselves a happier meal:
A happy meal is
food with family, friends
food fresh from the ground, fresh from the tree
food unconstrained by boxes, bags, clamshells, stickers
A happy meal is
food with a story
from a farmer you know
food with a soul that has never seen a flourescent light or a big-box shelf
A happy meal is simple
a tomato slice
corn on the cob
an apple eaten out of hand
A happy meal is slow
pork shoulder roasted all day
sauerkraut in a crock
potatoes in a mound in the garden
butter, churned, cheese, aged
A happy meal is the carrot you grew in your garden
or the cucumber your friend gives you from hers
A happy meal is the toy.
Do yourself and your kids and your nieces, nephews and grandkids a favor. Think a little more about your food (and their food!) and join me in my little poem. In the Comment box below type the words:
“A happy meal is”
and follow it up with your thoughts. Let’s stretch this community poem out a little and collect our thoughts on food!