Proposed Louisville ordinance would require Happy Meals to have healthy option
Proposal would require restaurants to make healthy food the first option on the kids menu
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When Amy Barnes takes her son out to eat, it is usually milk and applesauce instead of fries and a soft drink. “Because it's really important that he gets enough fruits and vegetables during the day,” said Barnes. “That's a challenge with any child.”
Two members of the Metro Council want to make sure all Louisville restaurants serve children healthy meals as well as happy meals.
They have introduced an ordinance requiring that restaurants offering meals designed for kids have healthier options. The idea is to reduce childhood obesity.
“I don't think they realize the calories and the sugar content that are in these products,” said council member Vicki Aubrey Welch (D- District 13.)
Restaurants would be required to make healthy foods the first option on the children’s menu, though parents could opt out. For example, the ordinance would require children's meals come with milk instead of soda. A parent would have to specifically request a sugary drink.
“We want parents to be able to make those choices, but we also want to have healthy choices to be able to make them from,” said council member Rick Blackwell (D-District 12.)
The Republican co-chair of the council's Health and Education Committee agrees overweight kids are a problem, but called the proposed ordinance “government overreach.”
“I think that that still becomes a parental responsibility,” said Angela Leet (R-District 7.) “Are we going to then take it and add on computer screen time, and figure out how to regulate that?”
The Kentucky Restaurant Association agreed. President and CEO Stacy Roof said the ordinance would increase costs because some restaurants would be required to add items and change all their menus. Roof said the proposal could have unintended consequences.
“Some of the independent restaurants would just un-bundle kids meals, and maybe do ala carte items,” she told WDRB.
Welch argues the ordinance would save taxpayer dollars. She said healthier children would result in lower Medicaid costs and reduced trips to the emergency room.
“We are being fiscally responsible to make kids healthier so that they are not unduly using these avenues that cost us our taxpayer dollars,” said Welch.
Welch and Blackwell said it is not too much to make restaurants serve both happy and healthy meals.
“It does ask them to do something that they’re not doing now, but we think it’s a worthwhile thing to ask them to do for the sake of our kids,” said Blackwell.
Amy Barnes said she just wants to make sure she has the final say.
“It's my responsibility, and honestly, if we're going to go out to eat, we're going to choose a place where we have that option,” she said.
The proposal is scheduled for its first committee hearing next month. Leet said she will invite representatives from restaurant and beverage industries, as well as Metro Health and Wellness to testify.
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