Andy Hanacek


In October, my wife and I welcomed our second child into the world, giving us two growing mouths to feed over the next two decades or so. No doubt, parenting can be challenging and we’ve learned about the arguments over meals that start at age two and never cease to end.

Since the birth of my first son two-and-a-half years ago, I’ve appreciated the need to make better meal choices for my family. Today, going out for meals has become a treat for my family.

When I was young, I looked forward to eating out, and there was no bigger treat than getting a toy with my McDonald’s Happy Meal. I was never obese as a child, and in fact was pretty lanky most of my adolescent life.

Last month, in a misguided attempt to curb the growing problem of childhood obesity, San Francisco passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of toys or other incentives in the sale of kids’ meals that did not meet specific nutritional guidelines.

Several friends of mine related this move to the “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” Christmas TV special, in which Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger deems possession of any toy illegal. I agree that San Francisco has crossed the line here.

Simply put, no governmental body needs to step in and start teaching limits, particularly in food choices. It’s parents who need to teach their children limits. If parents want a high-calorie, fast-food burger with fries and a drink for their kids, then so be it.

If they don’t use common sense and moderation, then, yes, their children could become obese. But that can result from other habits as well lack of exercising being but one example. The underlying issue here is the assumption that parents are mindless drones who can’t tell their children “no” or “go outside and play.”

As a parent, I want the option to take my sons to McDonald’s and “reward” them with a toy along with their meal. That’s the whole point of a Happy Meal the TOY. If I go to San Francisco, they get a burger in a fancy cardboard box with no toy.

I’m sorry, but a salad and the promise of a healthier tomorrow isn’t going to excite my children, no matter how responsibly I raise them. Nor is a toy going to make them feel better about eating rabbit food when they should be enjoying a rare treat. They are kids and have a right to be kids. A toy that comes with a hamburger, fries and a drink is twice the treat, and kids live for special treats and rewards.

It’s up to ME to moderate their intake of less healthful options not the government, national or local.

Furthermore, responsible parents should not be penalized for the irresponsibility of other parents. If we don’t send a message to San Francisco that this ordinance is out of line, who knows what’s next?

Ban video-game systems and computers because they don’t promote exercise? Require schools to replace desks with treadmills?

Stranger things have happened and most of them in San Francisco.