Is marketing fast food by public schools a common thing?
November 12, 2009 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Is it common for public schools to directly market fast food to children under the guise of "school spirit"?

My son started 1st grade at public school this year. So far, about once a month, the Chick-fil-A cow shows up at their school, wanders the hall and hands out these fliers that say that the class with the most kids that show up and order fast food on Date X wins a free chicken nugget party with said cow and a free recess. The class in second place of the spending race gets a free recess.

Not only that, but he brings home fliers from the school that announce that "spirit night" is coming. Today, we got a call (from the system that I thought was designed to only be an emergency announcement system) that reminded us to go to Chick-fil-A and spend money. Then, when I picked him up from school, he and all the other kids were plastered with a giant branding sticker in the center of their little chests reminding the parents to take their kids to Chick-fil-A tonight.

He was heartbroken when I told him that we would not be going. Apparently, they've been drilling them all week about getting a "free party" and a "get out of class free" period.

Is this as outrageous as I think it is? Is it common, and I'm just overreacting?

My opinion is that I should call the ISD superintendent to inquire why the school is trying to turn my kid into a mindless fast-food eating consumer-bot. But other parents around here don't seem to think it's an issue, and in fact were taking pictures of their kids covered in branding standing next to the cow when school let out today.

Before I go all crusader on the school district, am I being irrational about this?

(For the record; I didn't have an issue with this company before all this marketing to my kid started, and tonight as I was trying to google whether this sort of marketing was common, I came across the information that Chick-fil-A supports tea-baggers and funds homophobic thanks to their aggressive marketing to my 6 year old kid, they're now added to my ever growing "boycott" list.)
posted by dejah420 to Education (43 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I remember in elementary school we would go to fundraiser nights at Burgerville to earn money for the school and stuff. Was definitely marketed at school. We never had mascots over, but aside from that it doesn't really seem out of the ordinary. It's way less evil than the shit where they got us hitting the streets selling fucking magazine subscriptions, at least. Also, Burgerville is tasty and a basically wonderful company.
posted by floam at 5:26 PM on November 12, 2009

My daughter's school has CiCi's Pizza Night once a month. If you go into the restaurant to eat, a certain percentage of the till is donated to the school. They do tell the kids about it, but there have never been any classroom incentives for it or in school promotions.

But she DOES get that kind of pressure with the take-home fundraisers (and is likewise disappointed and worried about not getting prizes/her class losing prizes because we can't afford 30 dollar entertainment books, etc..)

I really, really loathe it, and I have been to school board meetings and written letters, etc.. But the excuse is always that this is a way for them to raise funds for the school without sending the kids door to door.
posted by headspace at 5:27 PM on November 12, 2009

Is there some benefit to the school? For example, do they get 10% of the sales on Spirit Night as a fund raiser? I have seen similar programs but they were much more low key than this seems to be.
posted by tamitang at 5:27 PM on November 12, 2009

(I was in elementary school from like 1993 through 1999, I think)
posted by floam at 5:28 PM on November 12, 2009

It's obscene, certainly. How obscene depends on how strapped for cash your school is.
posted by philokalia at 5:29 PM on November 12, 2009

You're not being irrational. You should be mad. It's very common, though. You should be mad at any company that does this, the ISD, and the idiots who underfund schools. Chick-Fil-A is especially nasty, because they're so closely connected with a politico-religious agenda. (I mean, I don't like McDonald's at all, but their politics are less overt.)

One of the great things about Chick-Fil-A though - they close on Sundays for religious reasons, which means you don't have to wait until dark to superglue their doors shut.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:29 PM on November 12, 2009 [14 favorites]

To me, (a non-parent, but fast-food hater), this is completely outrageous and should be illegal. I find it hard to believe that it is real.

Looking at the nutritional content of their food is scary, and it makes me shudder to think that they are managing to influence children in school, and interfere with their education.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:30 PM on November 12, 2009 [9 favorites]

I've heard of fast food nights, but this seems excessive. Getting the logo in children's minds is powerful - I remember playing with a taped up, empty box of contact lens solution in a fake 'store' in a children's museum - I always at least consider buying that brand today.

I've never had an experience like that, but I've never had any sort of fast food night for any organization. Might be because I live in a very liberal place where there is not a lot of fast food to be found (compared to other places).
posted by R a c h e l at 5:31 PM on November 12, 2009

Oh, I didn't notice that you didn't explicitly say they're giving a percent back to the school. If that's not happening, there's something really really strange going on.
posted by floam at 5:31 PM on November 12, 2009

You should take it to the PTA to find out what the other parents really think. And definitely take it to the administration.
posted by amethysts at 5:32 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is it common for public schools to directly market fast food to children under the guise of "school spirit"?

Is this as outrageous as I think it is? Is it common, and I'm just overreacting?

It's quite common. Often the schools receive direct or indirect compensation, which is very tough for cash-strapped schools to resist.

However, the fact that it is common shouldn't make it any less outrageous if that is the way you feel. My advice is that if you want to take action, arm yourself with some solid evidence of why this may be a bad thing first. A good place to start is with the work of Marion Nestle (no relation to the company):

- "Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity — A Matter of Policy" (New England Journal of Medicine editorial).

- Food Politics (book).

You can also read a recent Institute of Medicine report on food marketing to kids for free online ; chapter 4 may be of particular interest.
posted by googly at 5:34 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

These promotions are all tied to the funds raised from the school during the Spirit Night event. At our son's it has been both Chick-Fil-A and Chuck E. Cheese. Our guy was deeply disappointed each time we said "Nope, not going." but by the third time, he knew what to expect. The promotions are arranged with the PTA frequently. So are the catalog order form fundraisers they'll send home once or twice a year hoping you'll get everyone you know to order. If you don't like them, attend the PTA meetings and voice your concerns. Personally, I despise all their attempts to get kids to be fundraisers. I understand they need the funds, but I'd rather just write a check to them and have them stop selling to or through the kids.
posted by onhazier at 5:39 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hoo boy. Well, I remember McDonald's coupons being handed out as rewards for various things when I was in elementary school, but then that was the late '70s, early '80s, and I would really like to think school districts these days are more aware of issues like, oh, good nutrition and the evils of marketing junk food to children.

The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health in my province have established guidelines around what kinds of food and beverages may be sold/served to children in schools. Each individual school district also has its own policy. (Mind you, that doesn't mean cash-strapped schools aren't susceptible to "partnerships" with corporations like Coke and Pepsi.) You could check with your state and school district to see if this at the very least contradicts the spirit of any healthy eating initiatives, and then, armed with that info, take your very valid concerns to your parent advisory committee and the school board.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:41 PM on November 12, 2009

I'd be a little upset.

The key for me is whether or not the school is getting a percentage of the profit. If this is a fundraiser, then I would be upset by the brainwashing. If the school is not getting a cut, I'd be pissed.

My kids are always bringing home little certificates for good behavior or good test scores that have coupons for a free meal (if an adult meal is purchased.) We cut off the coupon and then praise whatever the certificate was for. We never use the coupons; although we have Celiac Disease in the family, so most of the restaurants are off limits anyway.

I think most parents are sick and tired of school fundraisers, but we all realize that the schools need money. I don't allow my kids to participate in the fundraisers where they are expected to sell stuff to friends and family, but the read-a-thon and walk-a-thon fundraisers are fine with me. I think the schools are going to keep doing these things until either someone finds a better way, or they start getting more money from taxes.

Personally, I think school fundraisers are horrible and emotionally scarring to the kids. Still, I have no other solution, so I don't feel like I can make a big deal about it.

Back to your question. Since you have some real objections to the company, I think you have every right to go to the school board (or superintendent) and let them know that having this company on school grounds is upsetting to you. I know that if my family were vegetarians, I'd be livid if a fast food chain was brainwashing my kid.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:42 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

On a regular basis we had reading contests with a Pizza Hut pizza party as the prize. The class that read the most books would get the pizza party. The branding wasn't nearly as overt as what you're describing though. I don't think you're being irrational at all.
posted by jedicus at 5:44 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think we're in the same school district (GISD?) and we seem to get a lot of Chick-Fil-A stuff (coupons for free kids meals and the like) but it hasn't seemed as bad as you describe. That does sound a little over-the-top. I'll ask my wife if she's gotten a squicky feeling about it.
posted by Shohn at 5:52 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it's awful. My school's PTA does the "school night" promotions mentioned above where a percentage comes back to the school, but they are at local non fast food restaurants. We usually pull in a few hundred dollars from each one.

I think you absolutely have grounds to complain about this. I do suggest that you arm yourself with some alternative fundraising ideas, if there is in fact a kickback to the school involved here (if there is not, then you should raise holy hell). Even losing a little bit of money these days is really hard on a school.
posted by padraigin at 5:57 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

in the late 80s we had the pizza hut book-it club (kid gets a free personal pizza after so many books) - it was a marketing ploy to get parents to buy their meals there as well - same with the free mcdonalds coupons.

our school band was "boostered" by chik-fil-a - we had chicken sandwiches at all pregame meetings and were encouraged to attend events like this as well. it was extra creepy cuz the band director went to church with the owner of the franchise and they hired the kids from the band that were also in their congregation.

so, yes, common - although your example seems extreme. does your town have a webpage/message board taht you could complain on - maybe get more parents fired up? also, yeah, go to the superintendent and the pta.
posted by nadawi at 6:02 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

The way I handle all this damn fundraising stuff that they send home with my 2nd grader is to ask the sponsoring organization to tell me how much money the school would get if daughter sold "X" amount (say, $50) worth of product. If they tell me $5/10/20, I write them a check directly for that amount. This enables you to take the moral high road and at the same time not feel like a schmuck for putting the school in the middle because they're desperate for cash due to underfunding. As a bonus, you've likely just created a charitable tax deduction (depending on the status of the organization you write the check to).

That said, what you're describing re. Chick-Filet is IMHO quite beyond what is acceptable. It's a marketing stunt for a business pure and simple. Shouldn't be anywhere near the school, let alone taking up school time for pep rallies and assemblies.
posted by webhund at 6:11 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

Pepsi and McDonalds were pushed to U.S. schoolkids in the '70s and '80s. I remember copious book covers pushing sugar water, and McDonalds donated orange "drink" for fundraisers and Halloween parties. Compared to the Chick-Fil-A's aggressive marketing to schoolkids, it was a soft sell. You're in the right to be spitting mad over a company who is aggressively trying to deny people human rights getting involved in your child's school. This message is sponsored by Carl's Jr.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:12 PM on November 12, 2009

Yes, it's very common, and also a horrible practice. Complain to the teacher, the principal, the superintendent, and the school board. They're promoting high-fat, high-sodium, food, and strong-arming kids, to boot.

At work, there's always a flyer for some school selling really overpriced gift wrap, popcorn, useless gift-y crap, and the school usually gets only a tiny portion. I'll buy Girl Scout cookies, but that's it. I'd usually rather give the school a dollar than reward the big gift wrap company.

My local schools prohibit this, as well as not selling soda or really junky snacks. Well worth it to have healthier kids.
posted by theora55 at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2009

I think we're in the same school district (GISD?) and we seem to get a lot of Chick-Fil-A stuff (coupons for free kids meals and the like) but it hasn't seemed as bad as you describe. That does sound a little over-the-top. I'll ask my wife if she's gotten a squicky feeling about it.

Wife here. Our school also had a spirit night at Chick-Fil-A, although it was much lower key and I didn't get the same brainwashing vibe. We have gotten a couple of Chick-Fil-A coupons for good behavior. The PTA does get a percentage of sales from Spirit Night and they're usually the ones who set that stuff up, not the ISD or the school itself, so they're the ones to talk to.

If you are really bothered by the Chick-Fil-A connection, I suggest talking to other companies to find a different partner for the PTA. Because the only real choices for the school to have enough money are (1) government funding; (2) fundraisers; and (3) corporate sponsors. More government funding will not be coming any time soon, and I for one can not sell any more damn cookie dough or magazine subscriptions. Corporate sponsors are the best bet, and sadly, fast food companies are the most willing.

You should probably also talk to the principal at your school, because that's the person approving the Cow parties and photo ops. That isn't a district level decision.
posted by Dojie at 6:39 PM on November 12, 2009

It is an abomination. Fortunately it gives me foil to show my daughter how insidious marketing has become and build her defenses against it. However, I despair of convincing anyone in any policy making capacity to give up "free money" for using my kid as a marketing opportunity. I've even imagined running for school board to try to address these issues. But then the realism hits and I know I'd be the lone voice against my fellows who can't even conceive that there could be harm in giving the state imprimatur to the consumerist crap of the day.

If this bugs you, you don't even want to think about "Channel One" which advertises to the majority of public school children in the US for 12 minutes per day. Presence during the broadcast is compulsory. That's about 36 hours per school year of forced television watching under state color. I picked the least inflammatory link about Channel One I could find.
posted by fydfyd at 6:44 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

This is extremely common, and it helps fund the school. The cow visiting is over the top; but so is thinking this is a plot to your kid into a mindless consumer bot. You don't have to participate.
posted by spaltavian at 6:45 PM on November 12, 2009

I absolutely remember this sort of thing but really I wanted to say that if you are looking for some companies to do that sort of thing, my high school team did this at Barnes & Noble once. We had flyers that we handed out to people and we got a percentage of the purchases people made with that flyer. This was probably 10 years ago now so I don't know if they still do it but I know I'd rather have my kid's school being a book pusher than a fast food pusher.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

What's new to me here is the way they're setting the kids up to pressure each other. If you don't go spend your mom's money your class won't get a free recess and all your friends will blame YOU!

We had fast food fundraisers when I was in grade school — featuring the similarly eeeeeeevil Domino's — but it was much less high-pressure. If your folks sent you with some money for pizza on Friday, you got pizza. If they sent you with a sandwich, you ate your sandwich. None of this EVERYONE BUY BUY BUY AND HELP US WIN nonsense — which isn't at all surprising, given how susceptible kids are to it, but I didn't encounter it when I was that age.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:05 PM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

My experience is similar to the ones listed above.

In elementary school and middle school fund raising would be pushed with promises of a half day off of school and pizza parties.

In elementary and middle school coupons for pizza were given if you read a certain amount of books.

In elementary school there was a fundraiser at a local restaurant every few months and it was always pushed on us to go. Stickers and fliers and all sorts of things. And then in middle school and high school Chick-Fil-A always came every Wednesday to sell chicken sandwiches.

So yeah it's annoying and if you can complain it would be wonderful but I don't think much is going to come of it.

Interestingly enough this afternoon I read an article in the local paper about how a nearby school district recently shot down a fundraising idea. The idea was that each student would donate at least $20 and then they would get 20 points of extra credit. A horrible idea. I'm glad that was shot down...
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2009

Like the above posters have stated, most kids going to public schools in the last 30 years have had some type of corporate sponsorship as a way to pay for things not covered otherwise. However, it was not as pushy as the approach you described.
For example, the Coke company paid for renovations to my school district's large football stadium (that services the three high schools and hosts playoff games) in exchange for having coke machines in every school. Since this would not be considered a necessary expense for the district, this is probably the only way to raise the millions. Remember coke also owns Minute Maid and bottled water companies, so they do sell less "bad" drinks in the machines.
Also, we had the Pizza hut promotion for reading so many books. However, we actually had to do something for it, and there was no pressure to donate anything. We really looked forward to going to Pizza Hut with our family and was a fun way to spend time together.
Why I understand annoyance at the schools' approach, the restaurant nights could be a fun family activity once in a while.
posted by greatalleycat at 7:55 PM on November 12, 2009

grrr. this is a longstanding pet peeve of mine. Apparently it is common enough that it has been "normalized" and is therefore there is great disdain at my raising the issues. I know this doesn't specifically give you suggestions to deal with it, but I commiserate with you on this.
posted by kch at 9:45 PM on November 12, 2009

This reminds me of that episode of Daria where this soda company starts sponsoring the school and things start going out of wack.
posted by alon at 12:39 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

My son's middle school just had a Quizno's night. We didn't go but he said there wasn't any pressure from the school, just a couple of reminders, and there weren't any of the incentives you described.

My daughter's elementary school holds a walk-a-thon every year. It's the one and only fundraiser they do. Much better than magazine sales or wrapping paper or candles or whatever.

Sometimes she'll come home with a Jersey Mike's coupon for a 100% on a test. I like those because I like Jersey Mike's and the owner of our local franchise is a BIG supporter of the public school district and an all-around nice guy.
posted by cooker girl at 3:57 AM on November 13, 2009

Thanks gang, I'm going to email the principal today and find out if it's the school or the PTA that's behind it, and how much the school is getting from it. I suspect it is the school itself, the call from the "announcement line" was from the principal herself, and none of the marketing materials have "PTA" on them.

Boy comes home with "achievement certificates" branded by the the Chick place all the time, and while we've praised him for the achievement, we've not paid any attention to the fast food "bonuses", but this level of "push" is well beyond what I thought was acceptable. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

I'm with a lot of you on the whole fundraising thing. I'm not turning my kid into a door-to door salesman for cookie dough or chocolates or anything else. He and I had a long talk last night about the insidiousness of advertising and the morality of this type of marketing.

I also told him that Chick-filA gave money to organizations who thought our friends (gay couples) were evil and who worked to make sure our friends didn't get the same rights as everyone else. This, more than anything, seemed to fire him up. He couldn't believe that anyone would think people he has known his whole life were "wrong" just because they loved each other, and he now wants nothing to do with the company. (yay)

Shohn and Dojie, it is indeed the of the "exemplary" schools, that gets theoretically a ton of funding because of the kid's test scores. I did notice, in going through some GISD Board of Trustee Board meeting notes that our local Chick FilA did get a catering contract, but I can't seem to find a copy of the contract itself, so I don't know if "extra benefits of marketing to trapped children" was part of the contract. I can't find any mention of a contract that lists this kind marketing.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences. I shall indeed mount the horse of indignation and find out who's behind all this nonsense, and what the school gains from it. I'd rather write a check than see my kid branded, or get heart-stopping calls from the school that turn out to be recorded advertising messages.
posted by dejah420 at 4:55 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Public schools here are trying to get zoning changed so that they can let billboard companies put up giant illuminated signs on their property adjacent to the interstate. WTF? Where is the funding that schools need to do their jobs without this sort of bollocks? It seems like this is symptomatic of a fundamental problem that should be addressed.
posted by tizzie at 6:27 AM on November 13, 2009

I'm not a parent, but I am incredibly incredibly shocked. I went to public school on Long Island, and we never had one corporate anything ever. I wasn't there for high school, but I think that elementary school is where it would count. I'm totally behind you in your outrage.

I think to sell ditching the fast-food sponsorship, you should get all you can together about the harms of fast food on childhood obesity, some stuff about marketing/brainwashing children (although not too much, this might put you in the "crazy liberal" camp), and I think sell the idea that if you got local businesses together instead, local real restaurants, it'd be healthier for the kids, bring in some variety, and HELP THE ECONOMY--small businesses, blahbedy blah. Whatever money the school is getting from this partnership, how much is it really costing in terms of the children's health?
posted by thebazilist at 6:48 AM on November 13, 2009

Before I go all crusader on the school district, am I being irrational about this?

No, absolutely not.

In your situation, I would raise such royal hell about this, it would make the front page of the local paper! Letters to the superintendent, attending the school board meeting, demanding to hear an explanation of this, who is responsible, when it will stop, etc.

Agitate, agitate, agitate!

Please do a favor for those of us who someday will have kids in school. Launch your crusade.

posted by General Tonic at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2009

We don't have this sort of sponsorship in the UK - I can't find any references which is irritating but it would be very unusual for something like this to get approved. Many schools are taking their fast food vending machines out.

What worries me is that there doesn't seem to be any sort of educational element to this. The Pizza Hut program some above mention was conditional on reading books - do the children actually have to do anythign here, or are they just supposed to buy things?
posted by mippy at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

the owner of our local franchise is a BIG supporter of the public school district and an all-around nice guy.

This might also be part of the issue. At my daughter's school, one of the parents owned an Einstein Bagels franchise, and another one owned a franchise for a barbecue restaurant. Both of them donated food whenever the PTA asked, and they passed out coupons for awards. Just because it's a national chain, it could still be helping the local economy if someone from your school owns that franchise location.

But I still think that they are going over the top in your school's case. I thought there were laws now about Food With Minimal Nutritional Value - kids can't bring cupcakes for their birthday; teachers can't use candy as incentives. How does Chick FilA get away with that?
posted by CathyG at 7:33 AM on November 13, 2009

Dejah, here's what I'd suggest: Find a few local restaurants without health and ethical issues that would be interested in doing a kickback promotion with your school. I think the idea itself is a great one, it promotes supporting local business, it is a fun community social event, and for me personally it's nice not to have to cook on a weeknight so I only wish our PTA set up more such events. Don't overlook chain restaurants entirely, they are often locally owned and certainly contribute to the local tax base.

If your school isn't already doing eScrip, suggest that as an alternative. There are also associate-type programs through Amazon and that can be very lucrative as we head into online holiday shopping season.

Bring these ideas and any others you can think of to the powers that be, and even if they think you're a crank, they'll at least know you're a helpful crank with good intentions who really wants the best for the kids.

At the very least, get the fucking cow banned from campus. Tucking a flyer into the kids' folder is one thing, but the cow has to GO.

(Just to address the side question here of "why don't people just write checks instead of buying crap", I asked that very question myself recently as a newbie PTA board member. Parents who have been battling the fundraising dragon for years advise that while many families would much rather write a check that goes entirely to the school rather than buy some piece of junk and only have a small percentage of the cost go to the school, still others want something tangible for their money. So basically, the wrapping paper and caramel turtle kind of fundraising serves the purpose of reaching the people who aren't simply going to write you a check. I imagine the Chick-Fil-A promotion means people who would not otherwise think it was within their means to support the school financially do make a point of trying to help.)
posted by padraigin at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's the email I wrote to the school Principal:
Dear Dr. X,

I find it disturbing that little children are being pressured by the promise of "free recess" to go spend money at a fast food restaurant with atrocious nutrition. Can you please tell me whether this recurring marketing push for Chick FilA is sponsored by the school or the PTA? Who is gaining funding from this endeavor? What percentage of sales are being returned to the school? In discussions with parents who have children in other GISD schools, none of them experienced the same level of "push" as was experienced by children in Keeley.

Not only are fliers sent home, but corporate mascots are allowed on property, and we got a call from you via a system that I thought was designed for informational/emergency communications. When I picked up my son yesterday, all the kids were plastered with a branding sticker. Instilling brand imaging at this age is something that advertising people dream of being able to do. Study after study has proven that if you can inculcate brand imaging before the age of 12, that those people become "brand loyal consumers" for the rest of their lives. At a time when obesity is a national epidemic, do we we really want the school teaching that nutritionally poor food is the right choices?

Is our school funding at such a low point that we need to pressure children to "support their school" by eating poorly? Using the promise of "free recess" for the class that spends the most money on junk food seems like bad policy. If this is a purely funding issue, then we need to take examples of these marketing campaigns to our Senators and Congresspeople and show that their policies are doing are turning our children into consumer junkies just to fund their books.

It's not that I necessarily object to benefits being conferred, with those benefits sponsored by a corporation. What I object to is the innate "do thing X or your class loses and it's all your fault" mentality that occurs with these sorts of marketing pushes. Could we not have a more progressive fund raiser? Perhaps a walk-a-thon, or a read-a-thon, or some other sort of fundraiser that has some sort of academic tie-in, and doesn't involve junk food, candy, sweets or salesmanship on the part of little kids?

If the funding from these marketing pushes are flowing into the coffers of the school, please advise me as to the level of funding generated by this junk food barrage, and I will work (volunteering my time) towards finding an alternative funding stream. If these marketing pushes are not generating money for the school, then who is the beneficiary of this incessant push?

Thank you for your attention,
Here's the response I got back. I think she's being snippy and rude. She didn't put a salutation on there, nor did she close or sign it. Nor does she tell me what a "character education program" is, or how much money is being raised. She also states that she's going to reprimand the teacher for materials that were printed on the school letterhead about the promotion. Absurd. The letter does indicate that she certainly has no intention of stopping the promotions:
Chick-Fil-A nights are sponsored by XXXXXX four times a year, and they do not involve the PTA. The profits are used to fund our Character Education Program, and other materials for teachers and students. Chick-Fil-A has been one of XXXXXX's "Partners in Education" for seven years.

The school phone calling system can be used for any purpose decided by the principal. It was not designed specifically for emergency phone calls. I often use it to communicate events at the school, and Chick-Fil-A night is one of Keeley's events.

Taking your child to Chick-Fil-A is a parental choice, not a school requirement. As for childhood obesity, that too, is a parental management choice. However, if you have checked-out the menu at Chick-Fil-A you have probably noticed that there are many healthy food choices.

As for children being "plastered" with stickers, I'm not sure how that happened. Every child was given ONE sticker as a reminder.

Based on the data from Mrs. (Teacher Redacted) room, only 3 students attended Chick-Fil-A last night, so the incentive of a "free recess" was not effective. However, I will speak with her about using recess to reward attendance at an event. There are many students who attend the Chick-Fil-A night, but do not eat food. Some kids just sign-in to play, have dessert, or socialize. Credit for the class is earned by simply showing up and signing-in. step...I'm taking it to the superintendent and the school board. I'm going to do some research and see what financial records I have the right to see and audit. My kid shouldn't be used a marketing demographic so the principal has spending cash for stuff that may or may not be approved.
posted by dejah420 at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]

I can confirm that this also happens in CFBISD and in Birdville ISD, so I assume it's a pretty widespread program at least in this area. I'd suggest taking it to the Texas department of education (whatever that entity is called), but I'm betting they're in on it too and don't give a crap what the parents think.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:56 AM on November 13, 2009

Chick-Fil-A nights are sponsored by XXXXXX four times a year, and they do not involve the PTA. The profits are used to fund our Character Education Program, and other materials for teachers and students.

I think the principal needs to answer some questions, like:

What exactly is this Character Education Program?
As a sponsor, does Chick-fil-A have input as to the curriculum/content of the program?

Reading this article about the company gives me serious pause about what it would mean if they did have input.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:22 PM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

That response was definitely a little snippy. Your letter kind of aggressive too, though. There may tend to be more success if you query for the information you're trying to get with a bit of a more neutral tone with "some may find it confusing"-type deals instead of "I find it disturbing"-type deals in the letter to the principal. Although I suppose the goal isn't just getting data. And perhaps it took some restraint to pretend we think kids getting junk food occasionally is going to set them up for obesity, when I'm guessing this is really about Chick-Fil-A being an icky company and the principle of the thing.

Keep us updated, this is interesting.
posted by floam at 4:43 PM on November 14, 2009

Before I would have been upset, after that response I would be on the warpath. (FWIW I thought your letter was firm without being bitchy and I'm thinking of using it as a basis for some of my own future correspondence regarding these stinkin' fundraisers.)

I definitely think your principle has some explaining to do. That Character Improvement Program sounds iffy at best.

I recently had a problem at my child's school where a church came in to do a presentation about a charity event that they were doing with the school. It was completely inappropriate to the age group, and was basically a small sermon. Luckily for me I was at the assembly as my child was getting an award, but I shudder to think what would have happened if I wasn't there.

I went to the principle and expressed my outrage and disgust very politely. I told the principle that it is not my place to tell her what to do about the situation, but it is my place to tell her that I was offended and that I don't want it to happen again. The principle was horrified had actually been misled by the church as to the content of their "presentation." I am lucky that our principle shared in our outrage, it doesn't seem that you have the same luck.

Now I know that our situations are different, but I see similarities too. My husband and I were prepared to find a new school for our child if we weren't satisfied with the principles reaction. If I was in a similar place as you and was Vegan, I would be deeply offended. Your principle is not at all apologetic, and doesn't seem to care at all that you are offended. That makes me angry, and I don't even know you!

As a side note, I worked at Chic-fil-a in High School. There is not a single thing on that menu that I would say has any redeeming nutritional value. The closest things might be the salads, but even they are topped by a fried piece of meat. The so called grilled stuff is still greasy and full of trans fats. Even the soup is greasy.

Best of luck with this, and please let us know what happens next.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:37 PM on November 18, 2009

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