Babysitting at the Drive-Thru

Last night city officials in San Francisco heard testimony on a proposal to outlaw serving toys with certain “unhealthy” kids meals. No vote occurred last night, but a second hearing is scheduled for next week. If this sounds familiar, you might remember that California’s Santa Clara County proposed (and narrowly passed) a similar ban in this spring. The only thing that’s different this time is the legislators’ outright hostility toward parents.

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, city supervisor Eric Mar laid out his disdain for mom and dad:

“As a parent, it's not just parental choice that decides what meals to serve your children. There's the heavy marketing by an industry that connects food with a toy, and that can be a powerful influence.”

Sure, a toy can be an influence. But Mar conflates influence with force. It’s not like restaurants are making parents an offer they can’t refuse. There’s a simple two-letter word parents can use for nagging kids: “No.” After all, 5-year-olds aren’t driving themselves to restaurants. Nor do kids necessarily even have an allowance to cover a Happy Meal “habit.” Parents are the ones with the ultimate veto power over what kids eat. And it’s a parent’s duty to use it judiciously.

After the Santa Clara County ban (which affects only a few establishments), one poll discovered that 80 percent of residents think that banning toys in kids’ meals isn’t an important issue. We’re betting most residents in the Bay Area would have a similar take on this matter. Just because the city council seems to like the “only in San Francisco” gimmicks doesn’t mean they should enact them.

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