McDonald's Ends Controversial Nutrition Program For Schoolchildren

Three years ago, a 280-pound-man named John Cisna claimed to have adhered to a calorie-controlled diet consisting solely of McDonald's for six straight months. After 540 meals (and several dedicated hours of exercise), Cisna triumphantly emerged from the experience having lost a considerable 56 pounds.

He did, however, gain one thing: a shiny new title. In late 2014, McDonald’s hired Cisna as a "brand ambassador" to share his story about the "importance of choice and balance," reports The Washington Post.

As a McDonald’s brand ambassador, Cisna has spent the past few years preaching the virtues of his happy-meal-heavy diet and exercise regime in presentations to American schoolchildren — a practice that has been understandably met with skepticism.

Shockingly, parents and school teachers alike didn’t seem to appreciate Cisna’s message, arguing that his particular form of fast-food marketing could be harmful to impressionable children.

“There was a suggestion that if you look at what you’re eating, you could eat at McDonald’s for several days,” Susan Strutz, a family and consumer science teacher who witnessed one of Cisna’s speeches, said in fall 2015. She added that she thought it was inappropriate for him to speak to middle schoolers.

Not only was McDonald’s circulating Cisna’s 20-minute video, entitled 540 Meals: Choices Make the Difference, but according to the Washington Post, McDonald’s was also campaigning for the documentary (which essentially operates as the antithesis of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me) to be offered to students, educators and school administrators as a lesson in nutrition.

In addition to sharing the documentary, Cisna reportedly sent letters urging teachers to include the video as part of their health curriculums, and even went so far as to attach accompanying teaching guides.

As of Friday, May 13, the controversial program has officially ended.

“John’s currently focused on the opportunities that make the most sense for our brand at this time,” Christina Tyler, a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a statement. “Specifically, as our brand ambassador, John is currently focused on internal and local community events, and he is not appearing at schools.”

While Cisna declined speak by phone, via email he wrote, “My focus has always been to encourage people to exercise and make more informed choices about food. Now I'm focused on and enjoying talking to employees and community groups about my story of choice and balance.”

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