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McDonald’s offers US children free fast food for good schoolwork


Amanda Andrews

London Times

December 7, 2007

School reports are doubling as a marketing pitch for McDonald’s restaurants in America.

The burger chain is paying the $1,600 (£790) cost of printing report-card jackets for elementary schools in Seminole County, central Florida, in exchange for a Happy Meal coupon on the cover that features an image of Ronald McDonald.

The promotion offers fast food as a reward to children who achieve good grades. Children with As and Bs, who have two or fewer absences or exhibit good behaviour will be entitled to a free Happy Meal at their local McDonald’s, as long as they present their report cards.

For years McDonald’s has been dogged by controversy surrounding its contribution to the obesity epidemic in the United States, despite regularly insisting that it has now shed that image with its offering of salads and apple slices.

Despite McDonald’s insisting that the pitch is supported by the school board of Seminole County and widely backed by the local community, a complaint by one mother has prompted the Boston-based child advocacy group, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, to demand that McDonald’s immediately stop the report card pitch in the district. However, insiders said that McDonald’s was “standing by the promotion”.

The fast-food chain maintained yesterday that its motives were entirely honourable, highlighting that children will have the option to buy healthy food as well as burgers and fries.

William Whitman, a spokesman for the company, insisted that the move was not advertising, just a means of supporting the community.

“McDonald’s does not advertise in schools,” he said.

“However, we continue to support education initiatives in the communities we serve.

“McDonald’s has a long-standing and rich heritage of supporting education and academic excellence.

“This is a local programme in Seminole County, Florida, that promotes academic excellence and rewards academic achievement.”

The company said it is interested in good nutrition and encourages children to make good eating choices.

The report cards will go home every few weeks with about 27,000 children in Seminole County.


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