I was pleased to see your article discussing McDonald’s recent health-conscious changes to its beloved Happy Meals. However, I fear that many are giving too much credit to the corporation for what is in truth a weak move in the face of a bigger problem — the aggressive marketing of junk food to children.

Certainly, it is ultimately up to parents to make sure their kids eat healthily, and by reducing the fat and calories in Happy Meals, McDonald’s has made that marginally easier at fast-food meals.

However, two indisputable facts remain: McDonald’s is an extremely unhealthy, junk-food brand, and it spends a good $400 million a year marketing that food directly to very susceptible kids.

I grew up in a very health-conscious home, and was taught to love my fruits and vegetables in earnest. However, just by watching TV or listening to the radio for 10 minutes, I would be exposed to McDonald’s ads for Happy Meals featuring miniature versions of my favorite toys.

And despite everyone’s better inclinations, my begging for just one more small Barbie doll would bring us to the golden arches again and again. And if that can happen in a family unusually tuned into healthful eating, it is scary to imagine how many visits less mindful families must make.

Yes, Happy Meals have been made happier. But once children outgrow them, the unfortunate next step for the then-hooked consumer is the classic Big Mac, fries and soda combination that will always have unsavory health implications.

Until McDonald’s stops this vicious cycle, they must continue to be linked to the growing obesity problem in America. And that makes nobody happy.

Eliza Gercke

Falmouth

In our politically charged climate, it is often hard to get a clear picture of how our children are faring. That’s why I value the reliable, nonpartisan information released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its national Kids Count Data Book. I rely on it for facts and figures about the well-being of children nationwide and in Maine.

This year’s data book, which was just released, focuses on the effects of the recession on children and families, including data on poverty, unemployment, foreclosure and the high school dropout rate.

Here in Maine and nationally, the percent of children in poverty continues to rise, which bodes poorly for how these children will fare in their health, their schooling and their future success.

As a businessman, employer and member of the Maine Children’s Alliance board, I know there is a direct link between the state of our children and the state of our economy. The numbers make clear that investing in children is the way to build a better-prepared, stronger work force for the future.

Both the national and Maine Kids Count Data Book information are available online at http://datacenter. kidscount.org. Or, by mobile phone, access and share data on child well-being quickly and easily anytime, anywhere at mobile.kidscount.org.

I highly recommend that our policymakers, business leaders, media, health-care professionals and other community leaders take advantage of the Kids Count Data Book for their own information and for the vital decision-making that they face, especially in these challenging times.

David Martin

Vice President, Webber Energy Fuels

Jefferson

GOP senator wants to cut budget for worker safety

I am an occupational safety and health professional, and I am concerned about Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s recent report calling for over $70 million in cuts to OSHA’s budget. The Republican senator’s report distorts data and threatens worker safety.

The report inaccurately states that the number of OSHA inspections declined between 2008 and 2010, a time when the agency’s budget was growing.

OSHA’s official statistics, however, demonstrate that the number of inspections actually increased by 6 percent during the period.

The report goes on to call for the elimination of Susan Harwood grants, which are an important resource for community-based organizations to provide health and safety training.

These grants help to train over 60,000 immigrant, low-literacy, low-wage and other hard-to-reach workers across the nation, including right here in Maine.

I urge your readers to join me and contact our representatives to keep OSHA fully funded. OSHA is one of the nation’s only sources of funding for invaluable worker safety and health training. It is imperative we do not let this program disappear based on misrepresented data.

No less then the lives of workers are at stake.

Anthony Zeli

Portland

As an avid supporter of workers’ rights, I am responding to Sen. Tom Coburn’s recommendation to slash OSHA’s budget by $72.6 million.

Cuts to OSHA will make it difficult for OSHA inspectors in Maine to do the valuable work they do. With over 7.5 million workplaces in America, it is impossible for OSHA to inspect all of them. In 2010, federal safety and health inspections occurred at only one in every 195 workplaces.

Don’t roll back OSHA’s resources and make it even harder to do these important inspections.

Join me in contacting Maine’s senators and representatives and ask them to oppose cuts to OSHA’s budget. A safe and healthy workplace is a right, not a privilege.

We cannot afford these reckless cuts to the OSHA budget.

Anna Trevorrow

Portland

Caution always needed in passing bicyclists

On Aug. 6, I was one of a group of five cyclists riding single-file on a narrow back road in Limington. At an intersection at the bottom of a steep hill, a lost motorist asked us for directions.

After talking with her, we climbed slowly up the hill (as we had to proceed from a dead stop). She crept along behind us, and then decided to pass (giving us such a wide berth that she was partly in the opposite lane) just below the crest of the hill!

A huge truck came over the top of the hill at a good clip, and seeing this woman’s car directly in his lane, the hapless driver desperately drove onto the dirt shoulder. Miraculously, he kept control of the truck and returned to the pavement. But he just as easily could have lurched out of the shoulder and killed all of us — the woman in the car and all five cyclists.

Attention, drivers: Do not pass a cyclist unless you have room to do so! And certainly not on a blind hill!

I know you don’t care if we get killed, but this kind of bone-headed move will surely eliminate you too.

You only need to wait a few moments to pass us safely, for cryin’ out loud. Get a clue!

Marty Berry

Gorham