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McDonald’s grilled over rebates

194Health groups have condemned fast food giant, McDonald’s, for seeking to promote its products to children in schools, kindergartens, and early childhood centres.

Members of the Mildura community in regional Victoria said they were “dismayed” to find that McDonald’s had written to schools in the community encouraging them to have McDonald’s products, including burgers, fries, nuggets and desserts, delivered to their students, with incentives for participation such as cash rebates and free drinks.

The letter, which was passed on to The Parents’ Jury and the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) by a concerned Mildura parent, outlines the ‘McDonald’s School Support Program’ where food can be ordered for lunch days, fundraisers, end of term treats and for school excursions and functions.

Campaign Manager for The Parents’ Jury, Dimity Gannon, says “Allowing McDonald’s to be promoted in schools normalizes the consumption of fast food, undermining both parents’ and schools’ efforts to teach children about nutrition and instil healthy eating habits.

“Some schools might fall into the trap of taking up this offer because they see it as an opportunity to fundraise. However, the financial benefit for schools is minimal while McDonald’s benefit greatly by marketing to a captive audience of hundreds of children.”

Jane Martin, executive manager of the OPC, says attempts by McDonald’s to promote its unhealthy food to entire schools of children are insidious.

“This deliberate targeting of children in these settings shows that McDonald’s is putting profit ahead of children’s health. This is from a company that claims to be committed to ‘responsible’ advertising to children,” she says.

“The Australian Health Survey 2011-2012 shows that children are eating way too many energy dense, nutrient poor ‘discretionary foods’ that are not necessary in the diet , with very few consuming recommended quantities of fruit and vegetables.

“The Victorian State Government’s Healthy Together Victoria initiative in Mildura is doing a great job of supporting schools to create healthy canteen menus and implement healthy fundraising activities. Making McDonald’s available in schools would undermine this positive work.”

The Parents’ Jury and the Obesity Policy Coalition have each written to McDonald’s urging them to immediately stop the McDonald’s ‘School Support Program’ in Mildura and cease all promotion of McDonald’s branding and products in schools across Australia.

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