When I was in middle school, my mom worked long days as a hospital administrator and attended graduate school at night. Together, we left home for work and school near dawn. It was often late at night, after she’d attended her own classes, that my mother would help me and my brother with homework and engage us in kitchen table conversations about current events.
My mom seemed to magically stretch minutes into hours. She carved quality time in the crevasses of an overpacked day. My mom is also an amazing cook and on the weekends and on nights when she didn't have class, we ate great healthy meals. Spinach was our favorite because it would make us strong like Popeye! But, on many, many late nights, we ate fast food.
Like 96% of Americans, our family sometimes relied on the convenience and cost of places like McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's. My mom was raised on slow cooked food in Texas, but as a divorced mom of two students in New York city, She sometimes had to chose between spending the tiny amount of time she had after graduate school class helping us with our coursework or cooking.
When I see fast food meals for kids taking steps to improve, I think about all of the moms and dads who are just like my mom, parents who want to feed their families fresh good food every night of the week, but sometimes need quick meals that are affordable.It’s not always easy to get healthy, quick and affordable food.
In fact, one of the most unhealthy items on kids meal menus today is soda. So when Wendy's listened to tens of thousands of moms and recently announced they're dropping soda from their kids' meals menu, I know this will mean less sugary drinks for millions of kids every day and, most importantly, it will mean more healthy options for parents and kids.
This is a big deal. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest source of calories in children’s diets and provide nearly half of their added sugars intake. Soda and other sugary drinks promote obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Drinking just one additional sugary drink every day increases a child’s odds of becoming obese. Indeed, with one in three children overweight or obese in the United States, it doesn't make sense to automatically include sugary beverages in restaurant meals for young children. And parents certainly shouldn't have to pay more to buy their kids a healthier drink option than soda.
We'd love to live in a world where none of us ever have to eat fast food, where we all have the time and resources to prepare nutritious meals for our kids every night of the week. But that's just not the realty for so many parents; and these small steps can equal big change as we fight for the health of our children.
Join us as we encourage Burger King to follow Wendy's and McDonald's lead. Kids' menus should offer healthy drink options for kids, not focus on sugary sodas. Parents have spoken and two out of three of the country's biggest fast food chains agree. Our kids deserve our advocacy and the healthiest food choices and environments possible!
Monifa Bandele is a Senior Campaign Director at MomsRising.org