McDonald’s has several methods for marketing directly to children and parents, including McTeacher’s Nights, where educators will volunteer to work for the night at a McD’s in exchange for a “percentage of sales from the event” being donated to the school. Today, groups and unions representing some 3 million American teachers are asking McDonald’s to put an end to the program.
In a letter [PDF] to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, dozens of national and local teachers’ organizations — along with school nurses and consumer advocates like Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood — describes McTeacher’s Nights as an “exploitative” and “harmful” practice that should be halted.
“It is wrong to enlist teachers to sell kids on a brand like McDonald’s whose core products are burgers, fries, and soda,” reads the letter. “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. If this trend is not reversed, many children will be burdened with diet-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, affecting their heath for life.”
The groups accuse McDonald’s of undermining efforts by the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others to curb the marketing of fast food to children.
McTeacher’s Nights, according to the letter, are “exploiting educators’ authority and popularity to lure kids to McDonald’s,” and “negate the good work of educators to create healthy food habits and environments in schools.”
“It is wholly inappropriate for McDonald’s to exploit cash-strapped schools to market its junk food brand, while miring its workers in poverty, effectively hollowing out the tax base for our schools,” said Jesse Sharkey, Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union, in a statement. “In Chicago we face potentially devastating cuts to our schools, yet one of the world’s richest corporations operating in our backyard is exploiting this situation by eroding the school food environment and our students’ health in the long-run.”
While McTeacher’s Nights are touted as fundraisers, some argue that McDonald’s franchises get more out of it than the schools do.
In general, schools involved in these events get around 15-20% of proceeds from a McTeacher’s Night. That means supporters are spending a lot more on food than they are giving to the school. For example, customers at one Ohio McTeacher’s Night spent around $1,273, but only $191 of that ended up going to the school while the McDonald’s benefited from the advertising and marketing of associating itself with the fundraiser.
“Frankly, it’s disrespectful for a multi-billion dollar corporation such as McDonald’s to throw pennies at our schools while it uses our teachers to market its products,” said Melinda Dart, Vice President of the California Federation of Teachers and President of the Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers. “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.”