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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

November 1, 2006 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

VIP Rides Merry-Go-Round
With LA Mayor's Henchmen

Editors' Note: Appealing to a higher authority doesn't necessarily bring satisfying results. By higher authority we mean the honorable mayor of Los Angeles.

In June 2006 we began our correspondence with the city librarian asking the library to discontinue offering pizza and other fast food as reading incentives for young children.

Because we were dissatisfied with the response from the assistant city librarian, we decided to take our case to the mayor of Los Angeles. Our original letter to the mayor is printed below.

The response we received from the mayor's office was unintelligible gibberish masquerading as a form letter that would receive a failing mark in a business English class. That letter also appears below.

We responded to the mayor's office with the following letter:

August 17, 2006

The Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles 200 North Spring Street, Room 303 Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Villagraigosa:

We applaud your efforts to improve the education of young people, but we have to give the city failing marks in the battle against childhood obesity. One of city's venerable agencies, the Los Angeles Public Library, still finds it necessary to encourage children to read by rewarding them with coupons for fast food.

Your response to our letter of July 11, 2006 was shocking and appalling. We realize that as mayor you may find it impossible to answer every letter personally and must resort to form responses, but the letter we received bearing your signature was complete gibberish. Obviously, no one bothered to proofread it. We are enclosing a copy of your signed letter.

When the entire nation is concerned about childhood obesity, it would be incumbent on the city and its agencies not to use fast food as a reward for reading.

Our next step is to inform the media of the city's indifference to this problem.


Zel and Reuben Allen

In October the mayor's office responded with their typical form letter. This time someone took the time to make sure the letter made sense. Their response is as follows:

Mayor Villaraigosa Letter

As most people will realize, we are on the merry-go-round, but can't seem to jump off. Placing a reference number on our correspondence and turning it over to the assistant librarian brings us full circle in dealing with government bureaucracy. She's the one who wrote us that fast food as a reading incentive is not a library problem; it's a parental issue. At this point we are tempted to auction off our Reference #35615 to the highest bidder. The winner could receive a coupon for Shakey's Pizza or, better yet, a low-fat vegan lunch with the mayor.

July 11, 2006

The Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles
200 North Spring Street, Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa:

We are enclosing copies of two letters. The first is our letter asking the library to discontinue offering food as a reading incentive. The second contains the answer by the assistant city librarian.

Frankly, we were extremely disappointed by the library response. Childhood obesity is not just a parental problem. It is national problem. It is also a library problem if that revered institution is peddling pizza and hamburgers as rewards for reading as it is doing now and has done in the past.

We find it incomprehensible that the library would act as a publicity and advertising agent for a fast food company and then turn around and say, "the library does not act in lieu of the parent or guardian."

With children constantly bombarded by advertising for all kinds fast food loaded with fat, sodium, and sugar, the library is an accomplice in delivering free unneeded calories to so many children who are already overweight. When a child comes home from the library with that bright orange pizza coupon, the parent is placed in the uncomfortable position of denying this reward.

We are not asking that you micromanage the library, but a remark from you like "This coupon arrangement is not a good idea" might carry some influence.


Zel and Reuben Allen

Someone in the mayor's office was evidently asleep at the wheel. Our letter was obviously fed into a computer that spit out an answer that was unintelligible gibberish. No one had bothered to proofread the letter we received. We scanned the letter so that our readers can review the document themselves.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

July 1, 2006 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Editors Note: In June 2006 we wrote to the Los Angeles Public Library asking them not to offer pizza and other fast food as an incentive to encourage children to read. Sadly, we find it necessary to share the response of the assistant city librarian.

"We would not put ourselves in the position to judge the nutritional value of the food being offered or to ultimately decide whether to take a child to the restaurant or not," writes Patricia M. Kiefer, assistant city librarian. In essence, the library is saying that helping to distribute junk food to children is not their problem. It is a choice that parents must make. We'll keep giving your kids coupons for junk food. Just don't use them.

Below we are printing a copy of the complete letter we received from the Los Angeles Public Library along with our story and the letter we sent to the library.

July 3, 2006

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Allen:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the library's Shakey's coupon giveaway program. As you know, Shakey's pizza is a local sponsor of the summer reading club in the branch you visited.

I can understand your concerns but note that the library does not act in lieu of the parent or guardian. We would not put ourselves in the position to judge the nutritional value of the food being offered or to ultimately decide whether to take a child to the restaurant or not. It is up to the parent or guardian to determine whether they will use the coupon, what will be ordered, and how much will be consumed.

I can understand your concerns but feel the thing to do is to leave it in the hands of the parents or responsible adult as to whether to redeem the coupon or not. I thank you for taking the time to write and sharing your thoughts about the nutritional value of Shakey's product.

Patricia M. Kiefer
Assistant City Librarian

Libraries Off to Shakey Start; Hold the Pizza!

Shakey's The world can never win the battle against the obesity epidemic as long as the purveyors of the food that makes us fat continue to produce and market their unhealthy products. Instead, these giant conglomerates are constantly striving for new ways to peddle their food porn. One method is to target children with numerous ads on television to lure them into fast food restaurants with toys or other gifts that will induce whole families to eat high-fat, sodium-laden, sugary foods.

Another marketing technique is to enlist the public libraries in this junk food marketing program. The process usually involves a coupon for a fast food item if a child reads a certain number of books. In order to collect the reward, the child needs an adult, usually the family, to bring him/her to the restaurant.

In early 2003 Vegetarians in Paradise launched a campaign to discourage libraries from offering fast food to children as a reward for reading books. The target of the VIP campaign was In-N-Out Burger chain that was rewarding children who read five books with a certificate for a hamburger. In our stories at
we pointed out the negative health aspects of this type of food and how libraries were becoming marketing agents for fast food chains.

After a hiatus of a few years, the fast foodies are back with a new promotion that offers food as a reading incentive. This time it's the pizza dinosaur with a bright orange bookmark coupon for a slice of Shakey's pizza.

We realize that fast food companies like Shakey's and In-N-Out Burger will continue to employ all types of techniques to push their products to children, but we feel that libraries should be savvy enough to say, "No" to these hucksters.

Vegetarians in Paradise has drafted a letter to the Los Angeles Public Library that is distributing these coupons to children as part of the current summer reading program. Our letter appears below. We invite our readers to join us by writing to LAPL to ask them not to use any food as a reading incentive.
Children need to enrich their minds, not their bellies!

June 28, 2006

Ms. Fontayne Holmes, City Librarian
Los Angeles Public Library
630 West Fifth Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Dear Ms Holmes:

In an era where health professionals are distressed by the childhood obesity epidemic, it seems incongruous that one of the largest library systems in the nation would offer pizza as a reading incentive for children.

We applaud the Los Angeles Public Library for its efforts to encourage young people to read and for offering them non-food incentives like book bags, folders, stickers, bookmarks, and certificates.

We are delighted that children have the opportunity during their summer vacation to attend story times and book clubs as well as enjoy magicians, puppeteers, authors, and illustrators in special library programs.

Rewarding children with coupons for Shakey's pizza is wrong for many reasons. The library is not only acting as an advertising medium for a national fast food chain, but it is also encouraging young children to eat pizza loaded with refined white flour, excessive sodium, and cheese with a high level of saturated fat.

Like television programs targeting young children with junk food cereal advertising, this Shakey's campaign lures families to the restaurant by giving one or more of their children each a slice of pizza. Each coupon almost guarantees a family visit to the restaurant.

A child who is not satisfied with one piece and purchases another, plus a soft drink, will add 500 to 750 calories to his/her daily food intake.

We strongly feel that rewarding children for reading by giving them fast food is misguided. Hopefully, you will reconsider this promotional effort and utilize numerous other incentives that will encourage young people to read to expand their minds without expanding their waistlines.


Zel and Reuben Allen

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