Burgers and Fries with Your Surgery?


Fast-food lovers, take note. Check into a hospital for surgery, and you do not have to settle for hospital food. Help is as near as the McDonald’s downstairs. Fast food chains are always on the lookout for opportunities, as Care2′s Sam Taxy points out in an article about their lobbying for food stamp allowances. Still, watching hospitals jump on board the gravy train sends the wrong message to consumers.

Dr. Rahul Parikh tried to find out why some of the 27 children’s hospitals with McDonald’s outlets agree to peddle fast food, knowing “they’ll get a black eye for doing it.” Their answer? Silence. Those who bothered to call back refused to comment.

The reasons are clear, as Dr. Parikh points out in his article for Salon. For fast-food companies, a setting where a lot of people pass through on an hourly basis offers good profit opportunities. Hospitals gain financially, earning rent and a percentage of profits. When hospitals are scrambling for funds to cover rising costs, the McDonald’s and Burger Kings of the corporate world are happy to lend a hand.

Some Hospitals Are Part of the Problem

A 2006 survey in Pediatrics found “59 of 200 hospitals with pediatric residencies had fast food restaurants.” The researchers asked 386 outpatients their attitudes toward fast food and McDonald’s food. To no one’s surprise, the presence of a McDonald’s increased both consumption of fast food and visitors’ perception that the food was healthy.

In a study published August 2011 in Childhood Obesity, University of California San Diego researcher Kerri Boutelle reports on a survey of 544 families entering a chain restaurant inside Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego. They were offered a $2 incentive for handing over their receipts and answering a brief survey.

The results “showed that convenience resulted in lunchtime meals that accounted for between 36 and 51 percent of a child’s daily caloric needs. In addition, 35 to 39 percent of calories came from fat and the meals provided more than 50 percent of the recommended total daily sodium intake for most children – and as high as 100 percent of sodium levels recommended for pre-schoolers.”

Other Hospitals Are Healthy Role Models

Although hospitals in need of cash can easily find fast-food partners willing to help out, an increasing number of medical systems are opting for healthier fare. The one I am most familiar with is Kaiser Permanente. While living in Oakland, I was a member. Any time I visited the clinic, I parked in a garage that had a Food Pharmacy on the ground floor. The combination deli and market offered only healthy options. Inside the facility wholesome fare was available at all of the food outlets. Dr. Preston Maring launched a farmers’ market in 2003. Eight years later, the company hosts farmers’ markets in nine states.

Kaiser Permanente is a leader in the field of healthy food in hospitals, but they have a lot of company. Health Care Without Harm lists 355 facilities that have signed its Healthy Food Pledge and a growing number of hospitals who have taken its Balanced Menus Challenge.

Unless their intent is to make sure they do not run out of patients, hospitals need to be health models for their communities. They are well aware of the statistics that run like shock waves through the CDC slideshow that shows obesity rolling like a red tide over the country. For hospitals to be part of the problem is inexcusable. Easy money today will not cover the rising costs of diet-related illnesses tomorrow.

Related Care2 Stories

Healthy Food, Healthy Hospitals and New Ways to Join the Two

Fast Food Chains Lobby States for Food Stamp Allowances

Marketing Junk Food to Our Kids: Can We Beat It?

First Photo from jeffreyw via Flickr Creative Commons, Second Photo from SweetOnVeg via Flickr Creative Commons


William C
William C2 months ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. C2 months ago


Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Colin Wright
Past Member 4 years ago

There is no way a BUSINESS that makes so much money keeping people sick would ever stop allowing McDonalds to prey on their victims.

If a hospital actually wanted people to be healthy, the very first thing they would do is GET RID OF THE MEAT, eggs and milk in their actual hospital food.

The next thing they would do would be to promote Veganism like a MFer to anyone who came through the doors.

You will know that hospitals have really changed the minute you see those 2 things happen.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago

Not all patients and visitors are on diet.

Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

As long as McDonalds contributes millions of dollars to the Ronald McDonald Houses that help the families of children who have long term hospital stays, McDonalds food will be in and near hospitals. It's all business, I'm afraid. Right or wrong.

Glen P.
Glen P6 years ago


Hospitals should try to serve healthy fare, or at the very least not portray fast-food fare as something that's healthy to eat, by being available in a place dedicated to looking after people's well-being.

jl n.
jl n.6 years ago

I live several blocks from a top rated children's hospital, and a nearby Ronald McDonald House, where families from outside the state can stay while their children are receiving care at the hospital. Outside the R.M. House, facing the street, there is a park bench with a life sized Ronald, in full costume, seated upon it. I resent the fact that McDonald's is so blatently advertising to these vulnerable children and families, using its "cartoon image" to promote an unhealthy choice. In addition, all of us in the neighborhood are visually accosted by the image, which is also alongside a walking/biking trail and near a gourmet grocery, as well as a natural foods co-op. What a message---so wrong!

Lin Moy
Lin M6 years ago

You probably wont see this in my town. Hope people are smarter than to allow it. This is the first time I've heard of this and it just makes no sence at all.

Cindy B.
Cindy B6 years ago

I am a 99% vegetarian but have gradually adopted a pattern of having a burger maybe once or twice a year -- always after a long, exhausting hike in the wilderness or a long day on the slopes. Somehow retreating to my primordial roots awakens a little bit of meat-eater in me.

ANYWAY, whenever I order one of these burgers I always ask for the meat on the side. The counter guy is always a bit nonplussed but they do comply, of course. I immediately grab a thick handful of napkins (with sincere apologies to the poor trees) and place the meat patty between layers of napkins and press down HARD. There's always enuf grease in the meat patty to totally saturate at least 16 napkins (8 on the top, 8 on the botttom). I then take these to the counter staff and demonstrate just WHY I ordered the meat on the side. They're always impressed & apologetic.

I also tear off most of the bun as it's just that awful white bread, and I stipulate NO sauce on the burger, and plenty of salad stuff.

This way, the burger is almost, sorta, kinda healthy. LOL