You know there’s almost no hope left in America when Ronald McDonald is showing up at schools to teach kids about health. Yet apparently, that’s exactly what happened recently at Union Terrace Elementary School in Allentown, Pa. According to ABC news, the smiling red and white McMascot came to the school, $1000 check in hand, to discuss all the awesome benefits of healthy eating and exercise with the kids. In a world looking more and more like the civilization inhabited by Wall-E’s morbidly obese characters, you gotta wonder, what the flip was this school thinking? Lest you think my Wall-E comment is rude, consider the new report that says about 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030, and insanely, that 42% figure isn’t even counting American kids who are also gaining pounds at an alarming rate. A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine points out that if no positive changes happen in America to alter growing weight trends soon, more than one in five American children will be obese by 2020. When you add up the number of obese adults plus obese kids PLUS folks who are simply overweight and on their way to obesity, it’s clear that McDonald’s in the classroom is about the worst idea ever.

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Image by Flickr User claudiolobos

According to the ABC news report, it was tough for the school to turn down cold hard cash offered by McDonald’s. We get it, schools are facing serious program cutbacks and tight budgets. However, there are other, more positive actions parents and schools can take to improve schools – actions and programs that don’t involve McDonald’s running nutrition programs. According to almost every organization that specializes in kids and commercials, children have difficulty distinguishing between advertising and reality. The Campaign for A Commercial Free Childhood notes that 80+ media programs are typically used to promote fast food and junk food to children annually and fast food restaurants sell more than 1.2 billion kids meals with toys per year. The campaign also cites research (pdf) showing that just one thirty-second commercial can influence the brand preferences of child. Another study shows preschool children report that food in McDonald’s wrappers tasted better than food in plain wrappers, suggesting that branding messes with common sense and even sensory input. Furthermore an Institute of Medicine report shows that advertising influences kids food preferences and diets. No matter how you slice it, Ronald’s face is probably making kids crave fast food.

Now consider that The Nemours Foundation says that most school-age kids need just 1,600 to 2,500 calories per day if they’re active, and most kids today aren’t active, yet the typical fast food kids meal with a small cheeseburger, small fries and small soda equals 860 calories (around half of what kids should be eating per day). Fast food equals way too many calories for kids yet research shows that fast-food consumption has increased fivefold among children since 1970. Once you add up BPA in fast food packaging, ADHD risks, the growing obesity problem and the fact that fast food is basically kid crack, it’s just common sense that McDonald’s and their clown don’t belong in our schools.

Lead image by Flickr User sfxeric