Tuesday, June 25, 2013

McDonald's- Hospital Food?

I recently visited a children's hospital and was absolutely shocked to see a McDonald's in the main lobby of the building.

This was my first trip to this hospital so I was totally unaware that such a thing was even possible. Total oxymoron. In awe, I watched as visiting families and friends joined their loved ones for a McDonald's feast, some wearing hospital attire or bathrobes. How can a place of supposed health and recovery send their patients to McDonald's for lunch?

On the one hand the smiling Mr. McDonald that graces the hospital grounds can be a good thing. He is the face of Ronald McDonald House which is a positive addition to the hospital. They provide a place to stay for families with hospitalized children who are receiving treatment. I read that they provide over 7,200 bedrooms to families around the world each night, with an estimated value of $257 million in lieu of hotel costs. 

But unfortunately Ronald is also the face of Big Macs and unhealthy food. Of the 14,000 Micky D's in the US, 27 of them are in hospitals. That number may sound small considering the total number of restaurants, but it is the location that seems off. Patients, especially children, will associate it with healthcare and I don't think they have any place being there.

Thankfully many hospitals have stepped up and tried to make a change. In January 2013, Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Missouri announced it was ending its lease with McDonald's. The hospital CEO said that having a McDonald's right next to its revamped, healthier cafeteria, sends an "inconsistent message." Corporate Accountability International (CAI), a non-profit organisation has been supporting public health officials who want to get McDonald's and other fast food establishments out of their hospitals. So far Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, Vanderbilt Medical Center, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have all been successful in removing McDonald's food and marketing from their hospitals. Yay for them!

Of course McDonald's doesn't share this concern. They feel that they offer plenty of foods that contribute to a balanced diet. "Today, we offer more variety than ever in our menu and we trust that our customers will make the appropriate choices for them, their families and lifestyles," says Danya Proud, spokesperson for McDonald's. Sorry holding back my laughter here. Even if this were true, the problem is that many people are still being educated about food and it's relationship to health. Hospitals should be part of the solution, not the problem. Some hospitals have as many as five fast food restaurants on their premises. 

In one article I read, a woman speaks of her experience in a San Francisco hospital and being served "organic plain whole milk yoghurt, fresh fruit, organic apple sauce, and wholegrain locally made bread. In the cafeteria downstairs is a salad bar stocked with fresh vegetables. And in the corridor of the hospital wing across the street is a farmers market filled with persimmons, apples, and much more from local growers." Geez can it get any better! But sadly, while many hospitals are trying hard to end their long standing contracts with fast food, revamp cafeterias, and even seek out local sustainable food, many are striking up new ones. Chick-fil-A recently opened in several facilities. I guess until they all wake up, if you should need to go to the hospital, hope that you are near one with some good food.

Sources/ Further Reading:
Fast Food Chains in Cafeterias Put Hospitals in a Bind
Kicking McDonald's Out: the hospitals getting serious about food
Advocacy group against having McDonald's in hospitals

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