Educators to McDonald’s: Stop Pushing Fast Food to Kids on McTeacher’s Night

Teachers serve burgers and fries to students during the school fund-raiser.
McTeacher's Night for the Delavan-Darien School District in Wisconsin. (Photo: Facebook)
Oct 14, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Selling chocolate bars, running laps in jog-athons, peddling magazines—those are just some of the ways students and parents fund-raise for cash-strapped schools. And then there’s McTeacher’s Night, a school fund-raiser that centers on teachers becoming the staff of a local McDonald’s restaurant for a night—and their students being served by them.

A coalition of teachers unions and education associations from across the nation, as well as advocacy groups Corporate Accountability International and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, have had enough. On Wednesday the coalition sent a letter to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook asking that the fast-food behemoth stop “exploiting educators’ authority and popularity to lure kids to McDonald’s.”

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Indeed, the company encourages students and their parents to “come to their local McDonald’s to see their very own educators serve up hamburgers,” according to the McDonald’s Educates website. The salt, sugar, and fat content of a burger, fries, and shake may be unhealthy and put kids on the path to childhood obesity, but as the website explains, a portion of the sales of the fast food goes to the school, “towards sports uniforms, band equipment, theater needs—whatever the school decides!”

The school might get some cash to help buy supplies or equipment, but the effect on the health of the kids is at the heart of the call to ban McTeacher’s Nights.

“We are in the midst of the largest preventable health crisis in the U.S.—one that is spreading throughout the world, and that increasingly affects children,” reads the letter. “If this trend is not reversed, many children will be burdened with diet-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, affecting their health for life.”

McDonald’s has not officially replied to the letter and did not respond to a request for comment.

According to Commercial Free Childhood, at least 360 McTeacher’s Nights have been held in 30 states since 2013. The number is likely higher—I scanned the list of known events, and although one of the public elementary schools my two sons attended held several McTeacher’s Nights, I didn’t see its name.

(Photo: Twitter)

I remember well how strange it was to see the kindergarten teacher serving up fries to young, impressionable students. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, which gutted budgets nationwide, teachers and families will do just about anything to raise money. However, a school might only pocket 15 to 20 percent of the proceeds from a McTeacher’s Night.

“Frankly, it’s disrespectful for a multibillion-dollar corporation such as McDonald’s to throw pennies at our schools while it uses our teachers to market its products,” Melinda Dart, vice president of the California Federation of Teachers and president of the Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. “At a time when we are working hard to help our youth adopt healthy habits, this corporation and its junk food simply have no place in our schools.”

The coalition is also asking concerned citizens to sign a petition to Easterbrook demanding that McDonald’s “end the abusive practice of using teachers and educational institutions to promote McDonald’s to schoolchildren.”