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Take Back the “happy meal”!

November 15, 2010

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:

happy 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.


cafe au lait and rhubarb toast


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!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Alice Van Housen permalink
    November 15, 2010 5:59 pm

    A happy meal is… making new friends in michigan over grassfield’s organic gouda and cheddar, lemon (farm-raised) chicken, sauteed brussels sprouts, butternut squash, jonagold apple pie with whole wheat crust and honey ice cream (oh, and wine).

  2. John Kessler - dad permalink
    November 15, 2010 8:40 pm

    yes…. a simple solution from consumers is best.

    … the movement may be starting but it will be slow.

    Let’s all push!

  3. John Kessler - dad permalink
    November 15, 2010 9:56 pm

    I’d also like to see the fast food chains accept some corporate responsibility and leadership and offer a nutritious Happy Meal. This could be good marketing tool.

    • Melanie permalink
      November 15, 2010 11:29 pm

      A happy meal is…

      The joy of cooking locally grown food
      In a household you know will enjoy it.

      A happy meal is…

      Sharing the joy of eating
      Compacting it into the word “healthy”.

      A happy meal is…

      The contentment of knowing what you are eating
      Relying on the farmers
      Who take care of the crops
      Which end up settling deep into the roots of our stomach.

  4. Anna permalink
    November 18, 2010 5:42 am

    Here’s my happy meal:
    Friends and family gathered together to make home made pasta, share vino, and laugh together.

    Two friends shop the local farmers market to prepare a bountiful meal with more friends together in Lake Tahoe!!

    Sound familiar?

  5. elliecm permalink
    December 20, 2010 2:28 pm

    A happy meal is:
    food you know and understand


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