It has now been about a week since the law requiring all fast food chains in NYC to post calories on their menu boards went into effect, and I feel pretty safe in saying that many New Yorkers are experiencing “sticker shock.” 400 calories in a low fat muffin?! Are you kidding me? YIKES!!!!
I don’t really know how I feel about this particular piece of legislation. On the one hand it aims to help people make healthier choices, but I would argue that those of us who care, are already aware that a double quarter pounder with cheese is not a healthy dinner. Sure, I have spoken to many friends who have abstained from a Starbucks pastry after finding out it had enough calories to count as a meal, but I can’t help but feel that there are other things that need to be done in addition to help all New Yorkers achieve better health.
Research has shown that Obesity tends to affect those in poorer neighborhoods. This is obviously due to the fact that fresh and healthy food is often unavailable, while fast food restaurants are overly abundant. Perhaps a better place to start would have been finding a way to get produce into these areas at affordable prices. California is now trying to enact legislation that forbids any new fast food restaurants to open in poor neighborhoods – this seems like a much more direct approach, no? I honestly believe that children (and adults) from poor backgrounds often eat fast food out of necessity. I think anyone would be hard pressed to argue that the best food around can be found in a Burger King! Fast food chains are cheap and easy. Faced with the decision to buy apples at $2.39 per lb. or taking the kids to McDonalds where they can get a meal for under a dollar, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the real problem here.
All that being said, I have found the hubbub and water-cooler conversations that this law has inspired to be pretty interesting. I hope that faced with a downturn in sales chain restaurants may add some healthier fare to their menus. Starbucks recently added healthy, protein packed smoothies and even though they taste pretty gross (in my opinion) I have to applaud their efforts.
So I guess I straddle the line on this one. I like the opportunity to be informed about my food choices, but I think that this has to be just a first step in a long journey in order for real effective change to occur. Hear that Mayor Bloomberg? OK, now get on it!