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The Trap of Fast Food Fundraisers

Tonight Brookside Elementary School will host a “McTeacher” night. Is hosting fundraisers at fast food restaurants a healthy way to raise money for schools or our local businesses?

Editor's Note: the McDonald's fundraising event for Brookside was a PTO-approved event, with the proceeds going to a school program that encourages positive behavior in students. The column has been clarified to reflect that.

McTeacher night is a school fundraiser with one focus: get as many families as possible to in a three-hour period while the teachers serve the children and school programs take home 10 to 15 percent of the profits. Wednesday night, focusing on , is not the first McTeacher night in Milford. There are many throughout the year for all the elementary schools in town.

Evidently, McTeacher nights are quite the money-maker. How would I know this? As a concerned health advocate for my community, I have been working for years to remove this fundraiser from the agendas. I have met individually with Brookside Principal Kathleen Kay and Milford Superintendent Robert Tremblay. I was told from both of them that it is not a school event (because it is after-hours), the teachers are volunteering their time and it is a huge financial success. Therefore, they leave it to the PTO’s discretion.

According to their website McDonald's serves 27 million Americans every day, one million more every year since 2003. Globally, McDonald's serves more than 47 million customers each day! McDonald’s serves 671 customers per second, every second of the day. And to think this is only the McDonald’s chain? Imagine factoring in all the other fast food chains.

America’s obesity rates are rising to epidemic proportions. The latest statistic from the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention states nearly 17 percent of U.S. kids and adolescents are obese. That's 12.5 million young Americans — nearly triple the obesity rate since 1980. Teenage Type II Diabesity and Cholesterol are skyrocketing and fast food is a known link.

A 2009 a Yale University study found that “40 percent of preschool-aged children ask to go to McDonald's on a weekly basis, 15 percent ask on a daily basis and 84 percent of parents say they've taken their children to eat fast food at least once in the past week."

Children under the age of 10 should consume less than 1,200 calories (less than 25 percent of them being fat calories), less than 4 grams of salt and less than 30 grams of sugar per day, according to the American Diabetic Association.

After reviewing the McDonald’s 23 page nutrition information pdf; I figured out a Happy Meal with a hamburger, fries, lowfat milk and sundae for dessert would add up to 880 calories (430 of them fat calories), 835 grams of sodium and 34 grams of sugar. If the parents or older siblings want bigger portions, the numbers were typically doubled. 

Parents may tell their children “NO” when asked to go to McDonald’s, but their schools are hosting fundraisers where the teacher will serve them a Happy Meal with a Smile? Regardless of whether someone “never” goes to McDonald’s and simply wants to support the school or this is their weekly convenience trip around sports, band practice and work, McTeacher night presents a huge conflicting message. 

The school system's Wellness Policy committee met last month to discuss the many ways to improve the school health focus. Milford’s Healthy Kids week was just last week. Milford’s Healthy Future’s Initiative has been meeting monthly to increase health awareness and programs throughout our community to include the today… but pulled in to the school parking lot yesterday for the meeting to see a "McTeacher Night" announcement on the school marquee.

The Health Happenings column is written to bring health to the forefront of Milford Patch readers’ minds. As a health coach and nurse practitioner, I've learned that one of the biggest obstacles people have in reaching health and weight goals is redirecting their meal habits. Many vent that they are “too busy” and “too tired” to make food. They are not sitting at a table with food cooked in their house but consuming fast food and packaged meals filled with additives. It breaks my heart to see school fundraisers add to this unhealthy eating trap.

As I was wrapping up writing this column, I received an email reminder from Middle School PTO about Friday's . UGH.

Assisting the community to break habits is tough. Eating fast food and hosting fundraisers with a focus on eating unhealthy foods are habits. Why not ask parents to send in $5 per child? At approximately 300 students per class we could raise $18,000.

Why not do a fundraiser that supports grassroots efforts or benefits the environment (like the one I helped spearhead with Stacy PTO three years ago selling steel water bottles and flower bulbs)? Finally, the fast food fundraisers do not support local businesses. There are family-owned fooderies in Milford who may be interested in hosting a fundraiser for the PTO. Is it possible? I don’t know. Would it be healthier? Maybe not. But it would keep the other 85 to 90 percent of the profits in Milford.

diny April 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Thank you Ugly Hat! I want healthy kids but everything in moderation too. All this and slamming everyone. Unbelievable
Mary MacDonald April 27, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I have posted an editor's note on the story and clarified some information in the column to reflect that the fundraiser for Brookside was a PTO-approved event, with the proceeds going to a school program that encourages positive behavior in students, rather than directly to the PTO.
carl berke April 27, 2012 at 04:08 PM
It seems that Fast Food brings "ou"t the worst in many of us, at both ends. Is that surprising? Gigo, garbage in, garbage out as we used to say about computers and fast food and certain other things. By the way, a certain person has no idea of "puerile" and is totally uniformed of the term "nazi". A nazi would like institutionalized fast food as long as the institution were contolled by the corporatist state. If you want to use any term, really use a dictionary or thesaurus that you so wimply criticize others by banging it on this site instead of using it for your own edification. Would that be a learning experience!
Lisa Vasile April 29, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Thank you to all who commented and for the many who emailed me. I would like to send a heartfelt apology to all PTO, teachers and committee members who offer their valuable time and amazing work for the school and town. It was never my intent to hurt feelings, “judge”, “preach”, “ridicule” or sabotage efforts. This is a HEALTH column, and whether people are eating fast food once a year or once a day; the evidence that fast food is not HEALTHY is still clear. Anyone who knows me; will vouch that my intent for offering information and volunteering my time in town HEALTH committees is to increase awareness with the hopes of decreasing illnesses which devastates so many families every day. Nowhere in the article did I “tell people” what to eat or state these facilities “should be shut down”, but cited the known fact that MOST of the choices at fast food places are higher in fat, calories, salt and sugar than food made in your kitchen. Many people commented that “moderation is key” and I agree 100%. Most of the schools in the district had their own McTeacher, Papa Gino, 5 Guys, BK and/or DQ nights. If the families had students in different schools and wanted to support the fundraisers, this would exceed the definition of “moderation” for HEALTH standards. cont...
Lisa Vasile April 29, 2012 at 02:20 PM
It is a conflicting message to the students when teachers are educating them in school to decrease fast food to a minimum, nurses are measuring their BMI’s and then the students are receiving flyers and encouragement to go to a fast food restaurant (and with McTeacher night teachers are handing them the fast food). The column is named “The Trap of Fast Food Fundraising” because as many commented, these fundraisers make the most amount of money, it is easy and people will attend; herein lies the “Trap”- financial and HEALTH. To answer the inquiry about the success of the flower bulb/steel water bottle fundraiser at MSE; it raised $1800. I looked at the PTO calendars on the school website and was unable to find the PTO meetings listed for all of the schools and grateful to the person who posted the next Stacy PTO meeting. I hope that when attending this meeting or other committee meetings in town, I (or anyone else who was inspired to participate - which was the objective of this article) will be welcomed.

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