Local mom gets national attention when she complains to McDonald's CEO

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comMay 28, 2014 

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Casey Hinds, an activist and blogger who lives in Lexington, last week compared Ronald McDonald to Joe Camel during a corporate shareholders meeting for McDonald's.

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As a mom, Casey Hinds is not "lovin' it."

And her passion for healthy food for kids runs so deep that last week she spoke at a McDonald's annual shareholders meeting outside of Chicago.

"Ronald McDonald is the Joe Camel of fast food," she told McDonald's corporate President Donald Thompson, referencing the cartoon character that became short-hand for what was wrong about Big Tobacco marketing to kids.

Her statement was made as part of a campaign by the grass roots watchdog organization Corporate Accountability International, and it caused a stir when she took Thompson to task for pushing unhealthy food to children. Hinds' "Joe Camel" line was quoted by dozens of media outlets from U.S. News & World Report to the Boston Globe. The hashtag , #momsnotlovinit, is gaining popularity on Twitter.

It may be Hinds' most public stage as an advocate for healthy food for kids, but it's far from her first.

"Casey stands up more consistently and persistently for what she believes in than anyone I know. Even if what she is saying is not popular, she withstands the discomfort to advocate for healthy food for kids," said Anita Courtney, who leads Lexington's Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition.

As a blogger and health advocate Hinds, the mother of two, said her training as an Air Force pilot has come in handy in fighting childhood obesity, especially in taking on Big Food.

"I'm pretty adamant about why I am doing this. It is not about making friends or being popular," said Hinds, who blogs at KyHealthyKids.com. "There are some critical health issues that children face."

Hinds, who grew up in California, has a family history of Type 2 diabetes and since her children were born she has sought to help them make healthy choice to avoid suffering from the disease as adults.

"Genetics loads the gun," she said, "environment pulls the trigger."

As a child she grew up with lots of choices for fresh fruits and vegetables and a relative lack of marketing of food targeting kids.

She became an advocate when her oldest child, now12, began pre-school. Hinds was shocked kids were learning to count and sort by using M&Ms. If they did a good job, they got to eat the candy.

That may not seem sinister, but, Hinds said, it is part of a school culture that uses food as a reward and allows marketing of unhealthy foods directly to students. (Some schools in other states have report cards "sponsored" by McDonald's and contain the logo.)

That culture needs to change, although Hinds knows first-hand that can be tough. Not only is it a challenge to tell teachers how to behave in their classroom, it's also tough to change the status quo.

Hinds has a problem with fast-food sponsored events such as "McDonald's Nights" where teachers worked behind the counter at the restaurant as a school fund raiser and sponsored nights at Chick-Fil-A where a percentage of the sales go back to the schools.

She remembers when she raised concerns about Chick-Fil-A marketing to schools.

"The PTA president got very upset and suggested I home school my kids," she said. "That shouldn't be the only option for parents."

Other options for parents include helping children make good food choices at home and turning off the TV. But, Hinds said, the overwhelming amount of marketing aimed at kids undermines parental efforts.

Even something as seemingly innocent as having ring-toss events at school festival where the prize is a two-liter of soda can be problematic.

It's all part of an environment crammed with unhealthy options, she said. For kids to overcome that environment is "like swimming upstream," she said.

After getting involved in her children's schools, Hinds broadened her efforts. She came up with the idea of Better Bites, a program that brought healthier snacks to Lexington pools, Courtney said. She also made the suggestion to improve the healthier options at Kentucky state parks and now all 17 offer Better Bites. Courtney said, five out of six kids' menu items are healthy and fresh fruit comes with every meal instead of fries.

Hinds was also involved in creating the PTA 5K that allows schools to raise money with physical activity instead of selling candy, doughnuts or cookie dough.

Through all this work, Courtney said, Hinds has become "a respected national voice in nutrition advocacy."

And Hinds has done a lot of her work through blogging and Twitter, she doesn't have so much of an office as whatever space and whatever device is handy to send out her latest missive.

Her blog was one way Hinds, who will soon be moving from Lexington to Seattle where he husband has a new job, came to the attention of the Corporate Accountability folks which lead to her standing in front of the McDonald's CEO.

She was nervous when she first started talking, she said, but, frankly, then she got a little mad. Thompson not only dismissed her claims that McDonald's is unhealthy, he also said Ronald McDonald doesn't make appearances at schools.

The Herald-Leader featured a picture of Ronald McDonald at Rosa Parks Elementary on Feb. 11.

It made her wonder if Thompson knows what's going on in his own company, she said.

Despite Thompson's attitude, Hinds said she has seen a shift since she became involved seven years ago. She is especially pleased that first lady Michelle Obama has made healthy kids a priority.

Still, she said, "it is sometimes like two steps forward and one step back."

She'll continue to be involved in the issue after her move. But, she said, Kentucky "has been such a big part of my advocacy. It really prodded me to take action."

Progress, she learns, takes time but it can come.

"I was really happy last year when out PTA finally stopped giving out two-liter bottles of soda at the carnival."

As a mom, Casey Hinds is not "lovin' it."

And her passion for healthy food for kids runs so deep that last week she spoke at a McDonald's annual shareholders meeting outside of Chicago.

"Ronald McDonald is the Joe Camel of fast food," she told McDonald's corporate President Donald Thompson, referencing the cartoon character that became short-hand for what was wrong about Big Tobacco marketing to kids.

Her statement was made as part of a campaign by the grass roots watchdog organization Corporate Accountability International, and it caused a stir when she took Thompson to task for pushing unhealthy food to children. Hinds' "Joe Camel" line was quoted by dozens of media outlets from U.S. News & World Report to the Boston Globe. The hashtag , #momsnotlovinit, is gaining popularity on Twitter.

It may be Hinds' most public stage as an advocate for healthy food for kids, but it's far from her first.

"Casey stands up more consistently and persistently for what she believes in than anyone I know. Even if what she is saying is not popular, she withstands the discomfort to advocate for healthy food for kids," said Anita Courtney, who leads Lexington's Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition.

As a blogger and health advocate Hinds, the mother of two, said her training as an Air Force pilot has come in handy in fighting childhood obesity, especially in taking on Big Food.

"I'm pretty adamant about why I am doing this. It is not about making friends or being popular," said Hinds, who blogs at KyHealthyKids.com. "There are some critical health issues that children face."

Hinds, who grew up in California, has a family history of Type 2 diabetes and since her children where born she has sought to help them make healthy choice to avoid suffering from the disease as adults.

"Genetics loads the gun," she said, "environment pulls the trigger."

As a child she grew up with lots of choices for fresh fruits and vegetables and a relative lack of marketing of food targeting kids.

She became an advocate when her oldest child, now 12, began pre-school. Hinds was shocked kids were learning to count and sort by using M&Ms. If they did a good job, they got to eat the candy.

That may not seem sinister, but, Hinds said, it is part of a school culture that uses food as a reward and allows marketing of unhealthy foods directly to students. (Some schools in other states have report cards "sponsored" by McDonald's and contain the logo.)

That culture needs to change, although Hinds knows first-hand that can be tough. Not only is it a challenge to tell teachers how to behave in their classroom, it's also tough to change the status quo.

Hinds has a problem with fast-food sponsored events such as "McDonald's Nights" where teachers worked behind the counter at the restaurant as a school fund raiser and sponsored nights at Chick-Fil-A where a percentage of the sales go back to the schools.

She remembers when she raised concerns about Chick-Fil-A marketing to schools.

"The PTA president got very upset and suggested I home school my kids," she said. "That shouldn't be the only option for parents."

Other options for parents include helping children make good food choices at home and turning off the TV. But, Hinds said, the overwhelming amount of marketing aimed at kids undermines parental efforts.

Even something as seemingly innocent as having ring-toss events at school festival where the prize is a two-liter of soda can be problematic.

It's all part of an environment crammed with unhealthy options, she said. For kids to overcome that environment is "like swimming upstream," she said.

After getting involved in her children's schools, Hinds broadened her efforts. She came up with the idea of Better Bites, a program that brought healthier snacks to Lexington pools, Courtney said. She also made the suggestion to improve the healthier options at Kentucky state parks and now all 17 offer Better Bites. Courtney said, five out of six kids' menu items are healthy and fresh fruit comes with every meal instead of fries.

Hinds was also involved in creating the PTA 5K that allows schools to raise money with physical activity instead of selling candy, doughnuts or cookie dough.

Through all this work, Courtney said, Hinds has become "a respected national voice in nutrition advocacy."

And Hinds has done a lot of her work through blogging and Twitter, she doesn't have so much of an office as whatever space and whatever device is handy to send out her latest missive.

Her blog was one way Hinds, who will soon be moving from Lexington to Seattle where her husband has a new job, came to the attention of the Corporate Accountability folks which led to her standing in front of the McDonald's CEO.

She was nervous when she first started talking, she said, but, frankly, then she got a little mad. Thompson not only dismissed her claims that McDonald's is unhealthy, he also said Ronald McDonald doesn't make appearances at schools.

The Herald-Leader featured a picture of Ronald McDonald at Rosa Parks Elementary on Feb. 11.

It made her wonder if Thompson knows what's going on in his own company, she said.

Despite Thompson's attitude, Hinds said she has seen a shift since she became involved seven years ago. She is especially pleased that first lady Michelle Obama has made healthy kids a priority.

Still, she said, "it is sometimes like two steps forward and one step back."

She'll continue to be involved in the issue after her move. But, she said, Kentucky "has been such a big part of my advocacy. It really prodded me to take action."

Progress, she learns, takes time but it can come.

"I was really happy last year when our PTA finally stopped giving out two-liter bottles of soda at the carnival."

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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