A coalition of consumer advocacy groups wants McDonald’s to end McTeacher’s Nights, charging that the fundraising events use teachers as “marketing agents” to sell fattening food to children.

During McTeacher’s Nights, teachers work behind the counter of McDonald’s restaurants, serving their students burgers and fries in order to raise money for their schools.

A petition with more than 30,000 signatures urging the fast food giant to end the practice was delivered to McDonald’s executives at the corporation’s flagship Chicago store, in advance of the company’s shareholders meeting yesterday.

Relationships built on trust

“Directly in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic, McDonald’s is using teachers to sell unhealthy fast food to children,” said Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert program. “This profit-driven marketing ploy disproportionately targets children and takes advantage of the important relationships built on trust that students and teachers share.”

Parent Mark Noltner said he was “outraged” when his daughter told him that her teachers had worn McDonald’s shirts and encouraged the students to attend a school fundraiser at a local McDonald’s.

“It’s hard enough helping my daughter navigate the minefield of unhealthy marketing; the last thing she needs is her teachers hawking junk food. And as a teacher myself, it infuriates me that McDonald’s would compromise the sanctity of our classrooms and manipulate the trust that teachers develop with their students.”

Lack of funding

Many teachers, meanwhile, are caught in the middle, trying to balance concern for students while coping with inadequate classroom resources due to a lack of state and local funding for schools.

The petition signatures were gathered by consumer advocacy groups including Public Citizen, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Corporate Accountability International. The National Education Association, Chicago Teachers Union and more than 50 state and local teacher unions around the country support the demand for McDonald’s to end McTeacher’s Nights.