It’s hard to argue against a program to improve literacy -- but what do you do when encouraging kids to read also means encouraging them to eat more Big Macs?
McDonald’s is collaborating with Detroit libraries to initiate the "Books & Backpacks" program, where kids collect stamps on bookmarks every time they borrow a book. The reward for a fully stamped bookmark is either a McDonald's Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal. “A McDonald's backpack and $20 gift card for books also will be given to one youth in a drawing at each library branch each month through the end of the year.”
Supporting local causes to generate positive publicity is a tried and true method of marketing that McDonald’s has been relying on since the late 1950’s. “We got into it for very selfish reasons,” Fred Turner, former CEO and Chairman once told an interviewer. “It was an inexpensive, imaginative way of getting your name before the public and building a reputation to offset the image of selling fifteen cent hamburgers. It was probably ninety-nine percent commercial.”
It also provides a handy shield against criticisms about their other not so image-friendly corporate practices.
Michigan is currently the 10th most obese state in the country, and childhood obesity rates are on the rise. By making McDonald’s a reward for reading, Detroit is sending extremely mixed messages to its children and contributing to the national obesity epidemic.
Encouraging kids to read is a worthy cause. But we should not have to sacrifice the health and physical well-being of our children in order to do so.