Fast Food In Hospitals? Say What?!

A green apple wrapped around a stethoscope on a deskHospital cafeterias aren’t exactly filled with kale and whole grains, but with fast food?

Chicken wings, quesadillas, hot dogs, sugar-filled cookies. Surprising as it is, it is not uncommon to find brands such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, or Chick-fil-A available at various health institutions across the country. This decision is a questionable move on the part of hospital administrators, considering that high-calorie diets, due in part to fast food, are partially to blame for conditions such as diabetes. However, fast food restaurants continue to surface across the country and hospitals appear to be no exception.

You may be asking yourself, what does a McDonald’s cheeseburger have any business doing in a hospital cafeteria? Well, an advocacy group, The Corporate Accountability International has been asking the same question. Recently they called out some hospitals in regard to sending mixed messages when it comes to health. The group sent nearly two dozen notices to hospitals throughout the country addressing their concerns, and the move was also endorsed by 2,000 health professionals.

Fast food restaurants in hospitals are clearly a problem, said Susan Levin, a dietitian with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Levin led a 2011 review of food options at more than 100 major U.S. hospitals. She found that while the majority of hospitals surveyed didn’t contain a fast food restaurant, the report’s top five “worst hospital environments” all had at least one.

“In this day and age, when you would think a hospital might be proud enough, if not shamed enough, to cut or end these contracts with fast food outlets, there were actually some out there that had as many as five fairly egregious fast food outlets,” Levin said.

For Levin, the broader problem is within the hospital itself. While she observes more and more places adding nutritious meals to their menus, she said most efforts aren’t happening fast enough.

“If hospitals have a healthful option, oftentimes we found that there was also something that was incredibly unhealthful,” Levin said. “When I say fried chicken bar, I’m not even kidding. That was in a hospital.”

The problem is fast food can be comforting to families of patients and patients themselves. It is also a reliable food service for hospital workers, whose schedules have them eating at all hours of the day. Also, McDonald’s claims that they don’t only serve fatty fries and greasy burgers. A spokesperson stated, “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.

So what’s your take? Do you think fast food should be removed from hospitals?