Should the Washington PTA be partnering with McDonald's?

Dec 5, 2012

When you think healthy eating for kids, you might not picture a Happy Meal. But local McDonald’s franchises and the Washington PTA are teaming up to encourage kids to make healthy diet choices. That’s touched off controversy among some parents.

PTA executive director Bill Williams said McDonald’s has added lots of healthy options.

“Because McDonald's has expanded its menu to include some lower calorie and some more nutritional items, we saw this as an opportunity to promote child health and nutrition, which is clearly one of the core values of PTA,” Williams said.

He says while he understands the concerns of parents, he simply sees it as an area of mutual interest and a financial boost to the PTA.

A number of parents have complained online that the core of McDonald’s business – burgers, fries and a Coke – is anathema to healthy eating and shouldn't get a seeming endorsement from the PTA. Melissa Westbrook posted the PTA’s announcement on her blog, Seattle Schools Community Forum, and questioned whether the partnership is appropriate.

“I was just quite surprised. I just can’t imagine, with all the childhood obesity in this country, why of all the food companies you could partner with, why would you choose McDonald's?” Westbrook said.

The deal with the PTA won’t put McDonald’s food or marketing materials inside schools. McDonald’s will be a Platinum sponsor of the PTA’s May convention, which according to their web site costs $10,000 (Williams declined to discuss the particulars). It includes booth space at the convention, as well as logo placement on the PTA’s web site and mailers. Williams says that money helps ease the burden on local PTAs, which can in turn put more of their resources into schools.

And the agreement also includes fundraising opportunities with McDonald’s restaurants called “McTeachers Nights.”  That caught Melissa Westbrook’s eye.

“Calling anybody a McTeacher, I have to wonder how many teachers would appreciate it being phrased like that. It almost sounds like a hamburger of the chain line,” Westbrook said.