Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Illegal Happy Meals! This is "What Got To Me Today"

Oh puh-leeeaasse give me a break.  I just watched a video from about a law in Santa Clara County, CA making happy meals/kids meals illegal because it should be unlawful to use advertising to lure children to unhealthy foods. 

Really?  Last time I checked it was the parent who decided what their kids should have for dinner.  So what then?  We implement a law so parents don't have to hear their kids whine and beg for Happy Meals?  How weak is that?  Now, before all of the health foodies out there go ballistic (as I consider myself a version of one), let me say the following disclaimer:

I know fast food restaurants do not make their biggest profits on their healthier menu items.  I know fast food is a major contributing factor to childhood obesity in this country.  I know that fast food is often much more affordable than healthier options, and that some families cannot afford to feed their entire families elsewhere.  I know all of these facts.

What I do not know, is how county officials are allowed into my kitchen, or my car, to decide what I  feed my kids for dinner.  We don't let government into our bedrooms, so why should we let them into any other rooms of our homes (unless of course there is a CRIME being committed)?  There are so many awesome programs out there, many provided by the government, that seek to educate versus boycott.  And this is coming from me, one of the all time pro- boycotters out there.  Show me the injustice of happy meals, and I will consider your argument.

You want to take soda (pop), candy and chips out of the lunch line at public schools?  Go for it.  But when it comes to how I spend my own money on my kids, hands off.  I guess this is similar to a "dry" county, where alcohol is not legally for sale within county lines.  But if you're going to boycott kids meals based on that argument, then you have to boycott ALL fast food, not just for kids.

This is strictly about advertising, and whether or not we, as parents, give into it.

This takes me back to my Cookie Monster debate, and how the "cookie opposition people" wanted to give Cookie Monster carrots and celery instead, because cookies contribute to childhood obesity.  My argument then was the same as it is now, it is up to the parents to moderate what their kids eat.

I, for one, occasionally look forward to treating my kids to a Happy Meal,  especially, if there was a particular toy they were really crazy about.  It doesn't mean they get the entire series with 12 visits to the restaurant inside of a month.  It means I get to treat my kids to a "TREAT". 

I get the childhood obesity numbers, but again, the kids within the age range of those who want happy meals, only eat what they are provided. You want to tax it?  Fine. But you shouldn't be able to tell me I'm not allowed to buy it.

And I haven't even touched the business side of this argument.  Shouldn't it be true, if fast food restaurants are forced not too offer toys with their food, then health food restaurants should be forced to offer toys along with their kid's menus?  Both arguments, of course, are ludicrous.

This isn't an argument for big business.  This isn't an argument on whether or not fast food causes obesity.  This is an argument about whether or not the government should be allowed to decide what advertising I decide to buy into.  What's next? No trendy flavors for my coffee at the corner coffee house?  Because even though some consumers buy them because they are fun, trendy and sophisticated, they are high in fat and calories?

We, as consumers, get to decide.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Got To Me Today? 80 Afghani girls fall ill at school, poison suspected

What got to me today?  People who are afraid to give girls the power of knowlege.

According to the BBC, eighty female students in Afghanistan have fallen ill while at school over the past week, the latest of which was yesterday.  It is feared, militants who oppose girls attending school are to blame, as this is far from the first time something like this has happened.  All of the girls reported a distinct odor in their classrooms before becoming sick. Investigators believe the air at the school was poisoned by the opposition to girls' education, to make girls afraid of returning to school, or punish them for being there in the first place.  A nine year old girl reported feeling dizzy, then watching her two teachers fall unconscious right in front of her eyes. 

"The Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan who oppose female education have been known to target schoolgirls. Girls were not allowed to attend school when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan until they were ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion."--BBC

Before the invasion, girls were educated in secret, and if caught faced the grimmest of circumstances.   Officials estimate that militants have blown up or burned 134 schools and colleges between 2008 and 2009 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and over ninety of them were institutions for girls.  In 2002,  15 girls were left to die inside a burning school in Saudi Arabia because the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (religious police) would not allow them out without their proper headscarves and robes.

I know this seems far away.  I know we have our own issues, mostly financial and some safety, within our own cities, states and country.  I know we are focused on our own children's schools, our PTA's, our teacher lay-offs, the nutrition of our kids' lunches.  But when I read reports like this one, and hear of the many other stories similar to this one, I can't help but be affected.  I am angered and heartbroken and don't really know what I can do about it.  So I do the thing I do best, and that is write about it.  Somehow, I figure if more people are aware of these kinds of problems, more will take action and raise awareness.

In the U.S., our biggest gender gap falls within speculating whether or not girls get a fair shake in math and science.  Can you imagine if your daughter wasn't allowed an education at all?  Look at the woman leaders we have in this country, take note that this year there were more young women than men enrolled in our finest medical schools. Though not perfect, we as a nation, are really starting to see some equality among genders.  And though we still have a ways to go (75% to be exact) before women share the same payscale and oportunity as men, we should be so thankful, so very, very thankful, that our girls are indeed allowed an education.  And if for some reason they aren't in school, it is not because of the mere fact that they are girls.

So this is what got to me today.  Girls being poisoned so they cannot be educated.  If they are educated, they learn to read and write and reason.  They learn of other women in other places with other opportunities. They realize the impact they can have, and the changes they can make in their own countries and the world.  Knowlege is power, and the Taliban, and other organizations like them, know it.

Please visit one of my other blogs, under the Champions For Women tab, for ongoing information and  resources or organizations helping women and girls worldwide.  Thank you.

The above photo is from The Afghan Women's Mission, Danish School For Girls.  Please visit their website to learn more.