The Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia are spearheading a proposal for McDonald’s Corporation that they respond to the public health concerns and data about the effects of fast food on the health of children. The Sisters are joined by a number of other religious communities including Benedictines, Dominicans, and BVMs as well as other health, financial, and educational organizations.

The Franciscan Sisters are shareholders in McDonald’s, owning more than $2,000 worth of McDonald’s stock, which gives them the right to make such a proposal.

PROPOSAL NO. 11: Advisory Vote on Shareholder Proposal Relating to a Report on Children’s Nutrition

WHEREAS, the contribution of the fast food industry to the global epidemic of childhood obesity and to diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, have become a major public issue …

RESOLVED: Shareholders ask the Board of Directors to issue a report, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, within six months of the 2011 annual meeting, assessing the company’s policy responses to public concerns regarding linkages of fast food to childhood obesity, diet-related diseases and other impacts on children’s health. Such report should include an assessment of the potential impacts of public concerns and evolving public policy on the company’s finances and operations.

For more information, read the full text of the Sisters’ proposal to McDonald’s as well as a story National Public Radio ran about the Sisters’ proposal.

I’ve read a number of comments on blog posts about this proposal and was struck by a few who thought it was odd that the nuns were shareholders at a corporation, especially at McDonalds. The nuns, some commenters implied, should stick to the classroom and out of the world of business and politics. Well, I got news for these folks. Caring for people and God’s creation and educating people around Gospel values must happen at all levels of society — on the immediate, front lines and at the systemic level. We need to tend to the wounds of the sick and influence health care police. We need to teach children in the class room and have a voice in the public sphere to be sure children are protected and cared for.

The Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia, for example, are not only working on behalf of children and health as shareholders at McDonald’s, but they help run and teach at Mother Seton Academy which offers tuition-free alternative middle school education to the underserved population; they provide housing and support services for women and children; they run a family counseling center to help individuals, couples, and families; and so much more.

So charge on, my Sisters, and know that our prayers are with you as you walk into that board room.