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David Lissner
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30 years of Happy Meals

happy meal

The Happy Meal is 30.

Youngsters who munched the meals back in 1979 likely buy them for their own kids today.

The iconic McDonald’s children’s meal with a toy began in June 1979, the brainchild of a Missouri regional ad manager. The original meals included a hamburger or cheeseburger, fries, cookies, a soft drink, puzzles and games. In recent years, the Oak Brook-based chain has added food choices including chicken nuggets, peeled apple slices, juice and milk.

Over the years, the Happy Meal toys, often with movie tie-ins, have become prized collectibles.

In celebration of the anniversary, area McDonald’s owner operators pledge a donation for every Happy Meal sold in nearly 500 local restaurants for the next five years. They hope to raise more than $3.5 million toward development of the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world.

Slated to open at 211 E. Grand Ave. in Streeterville in 2012, the new Ronald McDonald House will provide lodging to almost 90 families of children undergoing treatment at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Prentice Women’s Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

“The new House will provide a ‘home away from home’ to keep the families of hospitalized children together,” said Doug Porter, chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

Meanwhile, for grown-ups, McDonald’s beefed up new 1/3-pound Angus burger will launch Chicago-wide July 2, ahead of a nationwide roll-out. At $4, the premium burger is the chain’s priciest.