Kids are out of luck at the mostly West Coast burger chain Jack in the Box — they’ll no longer be receiving a free toy along with their children’s meal, following new laws in San Francisco and Santa Clara County that require such meals to meet nutritional standards before they can be sold with toys. Which is sort of good in theory, but still not likely to solve our country’s childhood-obesity problem.
According to Reuters, the chain has recently focused its efforts on creating healthier meals for kids, like grilled cheese sandwiches or grilled chicken strips. The company also yanked toys from the meals when it began offering parents the option of substituting sliced apples with caramel sauce for fries. Because, you know, grilled cheese and caramel sauce are super-healthy. Now reformists are pushing for chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell across the country to give up their toys.
Clearly initiatives to get kids on the healthy-eating track is a good thing, but one facet of the equation that doesn’t seem to get mentioned is the fact that children aren’t buying their own meals. Kids don’t have purchasing power! Yes, it’s possible that these toys might be luring some children into fast-food chains, but the fact of the matter is that most parents are taking their kids there in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better to target those with the discretionary income first, with an emphasis on education and establishing healthy eating habits? Parents, after all, can always say no to their kids. Just some food for thought.