Thankfully, after a long, hard, and sick winter, Dave and I are finally walking every day again. Getting back to our routine is wonderful, but it also reminded us recently of how different our childhoods were from the lives of kids today.
And that's because almost every time we walk through Kereiakes Park, we pass the playground on the far side of the park where kids play on the jungle gym, ride the swings, and—wait for it—eat fast food.
I am not kidding when I say that almost every single time we see a family at the playground, we also see a mom or dad cleaning up the fast food meal they just served their children.
We had seen it so many times that, after a while, we stopped noticing. But being away from the walking trail for weeks this year made us look at this now familiar scene with fresh eyes.
Four kids, two adults, six sets of hamburger wrappers, french fry cartons, and to-go cups.
What's wrong with this picture?
I think we all know.
"Did you ever take fast food to the park when you were little?" Dave asked me the other day. "When I was young, there was only one McDonald's on the entire west side of Cincinnati. And going there was a big deal, like going out to a fancy meal or something."
And he's right. When we were kids, going out to eat—fast food or otherwise—was a big deal. Sure, on a special occasion or holiday, our families took homemade picnics to the park, but now, for too many American kids fast food is a daily occurrence.
Though this is partly the fault of parents, it's hard to blame parents alone for this problem when there's a McDonald's on over corner. When you have to drive right past one on the way to the park, it's easy to wonder why you shouldn't stop and feed the kids while you're out?
(There is, in fact, a McDonald's, a Wendy's, a Rally's, and now even a Dairy Queen all within four blocks of Kereiakes Park.)
It's also hard to blame parents when it costs about two dollars to feed each kid at a McDonald's.
What's weird is that I really think a happy meal used to cost more when we were kids than it does now. Am I wrong or didn't a happy meal in the seventies used to cost three dollars and now they're just two bucks? Or maybe they're three now, I'm not sure.
Either way, that doesn't make any sense! We have had forty years of inflation, but prices at McDonald's have gone down, not up. How is that possible???
It's possible because technology is always making it easier to make our food even more processed, meaning that fast food is cheaper today because it's less real. It's also possible because the main ingredient in almost all American fast food is corn and/or corn syrup, and corn is heavily subsidized by the federal government in our country, which means that fast food restaurants can sell products made with corn byproducts cheaper than ever before.
Translation: our kids get fatter every time they eat fake, er, I mean fast food.