Hannah Robertson, 9, spoke at McDonald's annual shareholder meeting May 23, 2013.(Photo: Today I Ate a Rainbow via USA Today)
By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
McDonald's needs kids more than today's kids need McDonald's.
no one knows that better than CEO Don Thompson, who was seriously put
on the hot seat by a nine-year-old girl at Thursday's annual
shareholder's meeting in Oak Brook, Ill.
For a few moments,
Hannah Robertson -- whose mother, Kia, is a kid's nutritional activist
and creator of an interactive children's game on nutrition called "Today
I Ate a Rainbow" -- stood and lectured the CEO of one of the world's
"There are things in life that aren't fair - like
when your pet dies," said Hannah, whose voice never wavered. "I don't
think it's fair when big companies try to trick kids into eating food.
It isn't fair that so many kids my age are getting sick," she said -
blaming McDonald's for unfairly targeting kids with advertisements for
food that isn't good for them.
Hannah ended her time-limited
comments, made during the meeting's question-and-answer session, by
pointedly by politely asking: "Mr. Thompson, don't you want kids to be
healthy so they can live a long and healthy life?"
This is an issue that simply won't go away: childhood nutrition. It
is a key element in Michelle Obama's ongoing campaign to fight childhood
obesity. And even as McDonald's has made some moves to better its menu
offerings in recent years, it's increasingly getting bombarded by
activists - and now, their children - to do more. Several other
activists also spoke out at the meeting, prodding McDonald's to do more
about offering healthy items.
For McDonald's, it's virtually a
no-win situation that will only grow larger as a generation of
fact-focused and nutritionally savvy Millennials continue to have kids.
For Thompson, who has been CEO for less than a year -- and who has been
trying to guide McDonald's through a rough patch -- there was no
hesitation in his response.
"We don't sell junk food," he said. "My kids also eat McDonald's."
noted that he - like other parents - watches what his kids eat. "We
cook lots of fruits and veggies at home," he said. He also noted that
McDonald's sells fruits (apple slices in kids meals) and veggies
(including side salads on the Dollar Menu). He also said that McDonald's
recently began to sell fat-free chocolate milk.
The CEO thanked
Hannah for her comments, ending with this compliment, "I think it's
great that you want to eat more fruits and veggies."