Campaign challenges kid-targeted marketing in schools

McDonald’s urged to end McTeacher’s Nights

CIA.2Jasmine Ruddy of Corporate Accountability International (CAI) is an organizer for the Value [the] Meal campaign. After graduating from college last May 2015, Ruddy signed up with an organization called Green Corps for a one-year program for would-be activists and organizers. She came to the Twin Cities in January of 2016 and began reaching out to various organizations and individuals for campaign support.

One of the main focuses of the campaign was the future health of students. There is a nationwide epidemic of diet-related disease amongst children.

“One in three children born in the year 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes if current trends continue. This is unacceptable,” says Ruddy.” This is the reason Ruddy says that the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) should stand up for the health of children and do their part to end junk-food marketing via schools.

In 2013, MPS updated the school fundraising policy, which now limits the prevalence of junk-food marketing on school grounds. But McDonald’s found a loophole with the creation of McTeacher’s Nights.

McDonald’s recruits teachers, in the name of raising funds for a particular school, to work behind counters serving burgers, fries and soda to their students and their families. The school receives 15 to 20 percent of the proceeds, yielding $1 to $2 per transaction. Such fundraising schemes are among several reasons CAI is targeting McDonalds Corporation nationwide for their marketing practices.

“We’re Not Lovin It” is the opposing slogan, and “Value [the] Meal” is the title for the CAI campaign. Both slogans were taken from McDonald’s and repurposed by Corporate Accountability International for their nationwide day of action and Value[the] Meal campaign, designed to send a demanding message to McDonald’s in particular and other corporations in general to end kid-targeted marketing in the public schools.

Asked what a typical day was like campaigning, Ruddy said, “We are building a grassroots movement and support for the campaign in Minneapolis. So a big part of my job is to find the parents, teachers and community members that are passionate about the issues and have them take on the Value [the] Meal campaign. I’ll only be here until April and the campaign will continue, but led by members of the community in Minnesota.”

CAI has a letter of support form that they created and collect from individuals or organization representatives that want to endorse their campaign. CAI received immediate endorsements from a few organizations and plenty of individuals, many of them teachers from various school districts around the Twin Cities area.

Since January 2016, in Minnesota, Ruddy says, “We have support from the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, Appetite For Change, Midwest Food Connection (an educational learning center that provides lessons on growing healthy foods for most schools in the Minneapolis area), Put Kids First Minneapolis, and 200 petition signatures from individuals. Ruddy would like to see 1,000 signatures from individuals and 40 signatures from individuals signing on behalf of organizations by this April 2016 to reach CAI’s goals for the Twin Cities area.

During a press conference on February 23 in front of the Minneapolis Public Schools headquarters located at 1250 West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis, Ruddy read a letter of support written by Michelle Horovitz, co-founder and executive director of Appetite For Change. Appetite For Change is a North Minneapolis nonprofit organization using food as a tool to build health, wealth and social change. In Horovitz statement, she basically said that Appetite For Change supports MPS’ goals to:

• Provide healthy food choices and increase whole foods served.

• Teach lifelong proper eating habits.

• Offer foods that are fresh, of high quality and minimally processed.

The letter also spoke of the café that is owned and operated by Appetite for Change and how they would like the same consideration as McDonald’s to host a fundraiser for the MPS, with healthy options from their café.

CAI is not a start-up nonprofit organization charting new activism territory. They spent years breaking the back of Joe Camel until the makers of Camel cigarettes finally put to rest the image adored by children and responsible for influencing many young people via Joe Camel ads to start smoking early in life.

CAI is now in Minnesota, keeping an eye on McDonald’s and their hamburger-eating clown.


James L. Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to