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September 14, 2005

McDonald's "Phys Ed" Program! Ha!

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp. on Monday said it is sponsoring a physical education program that will appear in one-third of U.S. public elementary schools, the chain's latest move to combat critics who blame its burgers and fries for expanding kids' waistlines.

"McDonald's Passport to Play" will launch in 31,000 schools this fall, reaching an expected 7 million children in grades three through five, the company said.
The move is part of McDonald's so-called "Balanced Lifestyles" initiative, an aggressive effort to promote physical activity and nutrition and deflect harmful claims that its food is unhealthy and fattening.

"When you do the right thing and you are giving back to your community, you benefit as a brand," Bill Lamar, chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA, said in an interview.
The idea for the program came as McDonald's was looking for a way to promote its "Balanced Lifestyles" message to children and families through schools, Lamar added.

The world's largest fast-food chain - which is the target of a 2002 lawsuit brought by two teenagers who blamed their obesity on McDonald's Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets - in the last three years has made broad efforts to improve the image of its food, including packing its menu with items like salads and fresh fruit that are lower in fat and calories.

The company has also incorporated images of sports and other kinds of physical activities in its advertising and marketing, and Chief Executive Jim Skinner has listed such initiatives as one of his top priorities as CEO.

Sending that message directly to children is a smart way to begin to change the perception of its brand for the long term, said one expert, who likened the task of changing McDonald's unhealthy image to "turning around the Queen Mary."

Adults "are pretty well set in our ways in terms of our perception of the brand," said Robert Passikoff, president of New York-based brand consultancy Brand Keys Inc. "They can mold the sense, and perception and belief of the brand at a young age. It's a smart thing to do."
McDonald's, however, said the aim of the program was not to manipulate children.

"McDonald's has always been a family-oriented restaurant," Lamar said. "We do want children in our restaurants ... but we don't exploit children, we don't manipulate children."

Through "Passport to Play," kids will learn both playground games and activities from around the world as well as facts about the culture and countries the games come from.
Students will each receive a booklet, or "passport," bearing the Golden Arches logo in which they will check off each game they learn.

The McDonald's name, however, will not appear in any of the materials, according to Jay Jennison, director of business development for Kaleidoscope Education Support Group, which developed the program. "It can't be about that," Jennison said. "They want support from Corporate America but they don't want to be a marketing outlet for Corporate America."
McDonald's said it could consider expanding its sponsorship of school programs to older children or introducing a nutritional component to the current program in the future. END

This one is funny all by itself! Does anyone really still go to McDonald's? I thought it was "go to McDonald's for the fries but Burger King for the burgers?" Subway and Quiznos are better... Acidman's seafood pie sounds better still...

...and this is the American culture we give to other countries...

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