An advocacy group called Corporate Accountability International is urging hospitals to sever their ties with McDonalds franchises, "to help curb the epidemic of diet-related disease and to stop fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health." There are at least 27 hospitals around the country offering McDonalds along with their regular cafeteria fare, and some hospitals have as many as five fast food franchises in-house. At first glance, that seems incongruous — institutions in the health business steering people toward the least healthy food imaginable? Weird.
"We hear from physicians saying kids come in for their diabetic check-ups and they hear the parents saying 'If you are well-behaved, we'll take you for a treat at the McDonald's down the hall,' " Deon says. And McDonald's doesn't just get business in these deals: It gets a healthy image boost, Deon says.
Anecdotes like that seem compelling—they make sense. Sure, don't feed your diabetic kid milkshakes if milkshakes are bad for your diabetic kid. But...I still can't help feeling like banning McDonalds from hospitals is just a big waste of time and misdirected outrage.
Of course I'm not saying that people in hospitals should be opting for McDonalds over actual food. Obviously healthy food is healthier. What I'm saying is that banning McDonalds from hospitals is shamelessly treating the symptom instead of the cause. Whether the McDonalds is inside the building or down the street, any patient can still have friends bring in a wheelbarrow of Chicken McNuggets (and a bedpan full of sweet and sour sauce!) for every meal. You can still have pizzas delivered to your hospital bed. In an ideal world, no one would eat McDonalds ever, but that's because in an ideal world we wouldn't have corn subsidies and food deserts and factory farms, and McDonalds wouldn't be McDonalds at all. But as it is, there are, oh, a billion mitigating factors that make McDonalds an economically feasible and comforting choice for a lot of people. And simply moving the McDonalds farther away from people's mouths isn't going to make those people stop eating at McDonalds.
Due to some unfortunate family stuff, I spent a lot of time hanging out in hospitals over the past year. And in my personal anecdotal experience, I would have fucking killed for a McDonalds in the hospital. Because McDonalds sells FOOD. McDonalds sells salads and pieces of grilled chicken and ice cream cones and things that actually taste good (you know, in that gross McDonalds way). The food at the hospital cafeteria, on the other hand, was hands-down the most disgusting thing I have ever put in my mouth (and my first boyfriend was an uncircumcised orc). It was garbage with poison sauce. It was inedible, and it contained just as many calories as anything at McDonalds. Most of the time, we wound up eating candy bars from the gift shop for dinner to avoid another meal of hospital pizza—because hospital pizza is just a dead person's shoe filled with pepperoni. I would rather spend the rest of eternity sucking venom out of snakebites at Burning Man than eat hospital cafeteria food again.
And beyond that, can't the sick people just have something that makes them happy? I mean…like…not to be ridiculous, but people are dying here. Of all the populations that we should be policing…can't we just leave the sick people in the hospitals alone? Should we keep McDonalds out of school cafeterias? DUH. Because kids are shitty at making choices. But if there's one time that kids should be allowed to have McDonald's, it's when they're in the fucking hospital. Obviously if the kid is in there for a Big Mac-related illness and they're just one Big Mac away from death, then no. No McDonalds. But if you go ahead and feed that kid a Big Mac anyway and the kid dies, then that is a failure of parenting (and of all nearby doctors), not a failure of McDonalds location.
Bottom line: It really doesn't matter whether we "should" or "shouldn't" have McDonalds in hospitals. We're talking about the wrong thing here. What we should be talking about is WHY McDonalds can't exist without people turning fat-shaming into a full-time job, or eating themselves into diabetic comas, or whatever facet of our giant national fuckstorm you choose to align yourself with. We are so deeply screwed up about food in this country—we are screwed up about food in every single possible way—that a conversation about the proximity of quarter-pounders to cancer patients is about as irrelevant as you can get. Think bigger, people.