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OAK BROOK, Ill. -- To children, McDonald's is a place to get tasty fried food and a free toy in a Happy Meal. To many of their mothers, it's full of junk food and uses toys and movie tie-ins to hook their kids. But according to a National Public Radio (NPR) report, the fast-food giant is working to change its image with mothers by reaching out to them on more than one front.
McDonald’s Director of Social Media Rick Wion is starting out by connecting with mom bloggers. "Mom bloggers are a very tight-knit community, and they're very, very networked," he told NPR. "They're very linked in, and they spread information very, very quickly."
McDonald's witnessed this firsthand in 2010, when the company tested its Fruit & Maple Oatmeal at the BlogHer conference, a large gathering of female bloggers, according to the report. Since then, the oatmeal has become a hit menu item.
And McDonald's isn't just going to the moms, it's also bringing them to the company through behind-the-counter tours, trips to its supplier farms and visits to company headquarters. It's even developing a by-invitation-only community for the top mom bloggers, NPR reported.
The company is also taking action to make Happy Meals more appealing to moms who might consider them too unhealthy. This week, McDonald's announced it will reduce the amount of French fries in each Happy Meal from 2.4 ounces to 1.1 ounces, and include a fruit or vegetable in each meal. The specific fruit or vegetable will vary depending on the region and time of year, but could be carrots, raisins, pineapple slices or mandarin oranges, according to an ABC News report. Previously, McDonald's offered apple slices with caramel sauce as an optional substitute for French fries.
The announcement won over First Lady Michelle Obama, who was focused on combating childhood obesity as part of her Let's Move! campaign. "McDonald's is making continued progress today by providing more fruit and reducing the calories in its Happy Meals," Obama said in a statement. "I've always said that everyone has a role to play in making America healthier, and these are positive steps toward the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity."
Whether or not moms and kids approve of the change will be seen in September, when the new Happy Meal format takes effect. But McDonald's officials are optimistic; the company predicts the change will reduce calories in U.S. kids' diets by 49 billion calories annually, according to the report.