CITY HALL — Calling childhood obesity and the associated health consequences “a critical problem” facing New York City, Council Speaker Christine Quinn laid out a five-point program Monday as part of her mayoral campaign that would mandate chain restaurants lower the calories and fat counts in children's meals sold in the city.
As mayor, she said, standing in the Union Square farmer's market, she would ensure that chain restaurants cut the levels of saturated fat, sodium and calories in order to market something as a kids' meal.
“We're not telling parents they can’t get a child’s meal. We’re telling these restaurants that, when you’re marketing something to children, you’re sending a message to parents that this meal is good for children,” Quinn said, surrounded by campaign volunteers.
“And if you’re going to send that message to parents that this meal is good for a child, then we’re going to make sure it’s actually good for a child.”
Despite her proposed legislation — which she says she'll try to introduce before the Council if it can happen in the next few months — Quinn has historically been leery of the city's attempt to fight obesity, and doesn't support Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on serving large sugary drinks (which is now tied up in court.)
She even criticized the soda ban back in March, saying on CNN’s Piers Morgan, "My fear is that with issues around food and obesity if you say 'no' people almost have a reflex reaction to do it."
But the speaker insisted that her proposal is consistent with her past work as chairwoman of the City Council’s health committee.
Other parts of the anti-obesity proposal include: ensuring new schools are built with dedicated activity space; creating a program to send doctors into homes to develop preventive programs for children with asthma; increasing the availability of free food programs for children; and doubling the number of school-based health centers in the city to 250.