Costumed children under 12 years old will receive a free bag of apple slices at McDonald’s locations in Southern California on Halloween, officials said Wednesday.
Hoping that parents will jump at the opportunity to get something other than candy into their kids’ mouths that night, the promotion is designed to raise awareness of the new-and-improved Happy Meal offerings  now available in Southern California stores, which are scheduled to be rolled out nationwide by the first quarter of 2012.
The free giveaway of apple slice bags will be available at participating McDonald’s locations in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday.
“We’re excited to offer this nutritious treat for children this Halloween season,” said Michael Mangione Jr., president of the McDonald’s Operators’ Association of Southern California, or MOASC, which represents about 600 franchised and company-owned locations. “This giveaway is another example of our commitment to children’s well being and part of our broader effort to educate children and their parents on the benefits of fruits and vegetables.”
The Happy Meal improvements include the addition of apple slices as a standard option, as well as a reduction in the portion of fries and the option of milk as an alternative to soda.
The move was the first step in an initiative to improve McDonald’s’ nutritional profile announced in July. Officials pledged to set new goals to reduce sodium, added sugar and saturated fat across the menu.
Assuming that kids actually eat the apple slices that will be included in Happy Meals, officials with the Oak Brook, Ill.-based quick-service chain estimate that the addition will introduce about 100 million cups of produce annually into the diets of young diners.