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What if Kingston…

Kingston, Ontario, ban happy mealsAll this talk about Harper’s Burger Bar, Smoke’s Poutinerie and Five Guys Burgers and Fries has Kingstonians loosening their belts, and for good reason.  Don’t get me wrong, I love indulging in grease-laden treats once in a while, but for many, fast food makes up too much of their daily diet.  Whether it’s justified as a result of time constraints, geographical convenience, or the economics of a daily meal deal, some people simply cannot help themselves.  With poor nutrition in mind, it should come as no surprise that 25 percent of Canadians are considered overweight, while health officials project a 5 percent increase by the time we reach 2020.  Stats aside, what can we do to win the battle of the bulge?  What if Kingston banned fast food once and for all?

I can already hear the chorus of laughs and boos from naysayers chanting let them eat cake, or in this case Big Macs, Whoppers and 12 piece buckets.  The Limestone City is no stranger to the fast food franchise, as we’ve got clusters clogging up various arteries downtown, at Division and the 401, as well as at Bath and Gardiners Road respectively.  Obviously the prevalence of these fat factories is correlated with demand, otherwise they would not remain in business.  Even so, while the idea of an outright ban on fast food may seem far fetched or even overprotective, we need only look to that southern city by the bay for an unprecedented, radical plan to combat the likes of the Clown, the King and the Colonel.

Earlier this month, San Francisco’s Board of Governors sent a strong message to the Golden Arches by passing a motion to ban the Happy Meal.  The decision to target meals that do not meet nutritional guidelines, and their respective colourful, plastic rewards, was clearly designed to save kids from future diabetic comas and bouts of sleep apnea.  Joe Eskenazi of the SF Snitch writes:

The Board of Supervisors today passed an ordinance that will require meals to meet nutritional guidelines if restaurants wish to include a toy with the food purchase. More importantly, the supes passed the so-called “Happy Meal Ban” by an 8-3 vote ? meaning it can survive a promised veto from Mayor Gavin Newsom. That’s right: San Francisco done banned the Happy Meal. Robble robble.

Don’t get me wrong, I love treating myself to fast food once in a while, and I can’t imagine Kingston without it.  Even so, that doesn’t mean that a fast food ban would be a bad idea.  Buy why stop with fast food when there’s cigarettes, drive thrus, and even bottled water that should arguably be outlawed.  In the end, a decision to stop serving fast food in Kingston would put a lot of people out of work, while municipal officials would be chastised for telling us how to raise our kids, and moreover ourselves.  Back to being the devil’s advocate, perhaps we need a little bit of saving and healthy redirection once in a while?  What do you think?  Should Kingston become a shining example in promoting healthy living and take fast food off of the menu, or is the happy meal ban simply a crazy idea spawned by a city overrun by hippies?

Special thanks to itspaulkelly for today’s photo.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

22 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • November 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm
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    I vote for 'crazy idea spawned by a city full of hippies'. :)

  • November 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm
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    The municipality here has no ability to do that, at all. The city *might* be able to restrict future drive throughs though Tim Horton's has said they'd challenge any effort to do that to the OMB. To even stop toys in happy meals would have to be done at the provincial level…where politicians were recently seen on TV eating their KFC double downs, and its been controversial to just now get junk food out of schools. Not going to happen any time soon.

  • November 11, 2010 at 3:14 pm
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    The city ( and San Francisco included) should NOT have the right to do this.

    • November 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm
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      Agreed, what's next? Prohibition again? Or maybe they will ban hot dogs, they are probably worse for you than a happy meal after all?

      It's a fine line, and it's not really the government's role to tell people how to live their lives. It's one thing to encourage healthier lifestyle choices through education, but quite another thing to strictly enforce them.

      That beings said, plastic bottled water is unnecessary, given the supply of potable tap water, and affordable water filters.

  • November 11, 2010 at 3:37 pm
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    I think it’s a great idea but I also don’t really eat fast food so who am I to take it away from others? I do think we need some “saving and healthy redirection” as you said though. They put giant warnings on cigarettes, why not put warnings on fast food packaging as well? Then people can at least take it upon themselves to think before they eat. It’s just good to be reminded of these things every now and then.

    • November 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm
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      I think some franchises are putting nutritional information on their packaging, but a lot of people either don't pay attention, or care as to how much fat or sodium a given item has. These places can offer salads and apple slices all they want, but a vast majority of customers don't go to McDonalds and the like for healthy food. It would definitely be hilarious to see giant warnings, including pictures of flabby bellies, on a french fry container. But if the warning signs on the sides of cigarette packages have taught us anything it would be that such warnings are useless. People who want to smoke will, same thing goes for those who want to slather their large sized fries in mayonnaise.

      • November 12, 2010 at 8:57 pm
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        Furthermore I thin anyone who goes to McDonalds to buy a salad expecting that it's a healthy choice is only fooling themselves. McDonalds cleverly lists the salads separately from the dressing in its nutritional information sheets and many of them are anything but a healthy alternative.

        For example: a Big Mac contains 29g of fat… and so does the Renees Mighty Caesar Dressing – and that's just the dressing.

        • June 11, 2011 at 8:35 am
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          It always irritates me that people make that comparison because although that may be correct, the fat content of the dressing does not detract from the nutritional value of the salad……you are still getting far more nutrient value from a salad than from a big mac. You are also not taking into consideration that the big mac is almost never purchased without fries……I believe that puts the salad in the lead by a significant margin.

  • November 11, 2010 at 3:54 pm
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    Of course this is a city who inexplicably banned bottled water in municipal facilities while happily continuing to sell bottled soft drinks and all manner of junk food in the same place, contrary to the previous 'healthy choices" policy.

      • November 11, 2010 at 8:02 pm
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        Banned bottled water from sale, yes. Still allowed to bring your own to Invista and other arenas but its not sold beside the pop that is allowed.

        • November 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm
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          There are sources of water available in those locations. Either you don't know or are trying to obfuscate the reason for the ban – to reduce the number of plastic bottles in the city. Which is a worthy goal; absolutely.

          • November 13, 2010 at 11:51 am
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            Actually, the argument had absolutely nothing to do with plastic bottles, hence pop in exactly the same plastic bottle is still sold there. The recycling stream capture rate of bottles sold in arenas is virtually 100%. The water "available" is fountains..fine for a sip maybe bit kinda hard to take it with you to your seat or wherever you were planning to go with your purchased drink. They took away the choice of choosing water when purchasing a beverage and left all the sugar laden ones.

            The argument from the socialist faction on council was against business being able to make money on the sale of water, and energy used in its transport and production, and a "jump on the bandwagon" as a handful of other places had done it at the time

          • November 14, 2010 at 8:50 am
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            Actually, you are right that it's about more than bottles. However widening the issue doesn't help your position. The problem with is a wider issue which starts with production. At the production end, It is to do with whether transnational companies can come into an area, take water from their local aquifers and then sell it back to people (near or far) with minimal alteration (and minimal contribution to local job supply, if that was a valid counter-argument anyway, which it isn't). There are now numerous local campaigns against such extraction all over the world. And that's just the start…

            And I am curious as to this 'socialist faction'. I haven't noticed much in the way of socialism in Canadian politics, let alone on the Kingston council. Do you just mean councillors who favour limited interventions in markets (regulation) and not letting corporations get exactly what they want? That is not the same as 'socialism', it is merely not a pure (neo-)liberal economic position. I think you may need to read up on your political theory…

  • November 12, 2010 at 11:15 am
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    1. Prohibition of particular products doesn't work, even if you approve of the motivations behind such prohibitions (Now what might work would be nation-level regulations on salt, sugar and trans-fat content – the idea being that no individual kind of food is 'banned', but nutrional content is improved for all);

    2. Kingston does not have the power to do this.

    3. There's a much deeper issue here which are more important, which is that the standard diet for people with lower incomes is getting nutritionally worse, yet the ability of poorer people to access decent food is declining (local food shops and even large ones are closing or moving out of poorer communities) and those on low incomes don't have easy access and can't generally afford the products advocated by local food activists. It tends therefore to be poorer people in wealthy societies (not the wealthy people in wealthy societies) who eat more bad food and end up obese and with the all the additional health problems associated (that just exacerbate the health problems of being poor anyway).

    The real issue here is about 'food justice' for poor communities (and that means more money to state programs for good school food and breakfast clubs etc.), rather more active planning that stops chain food retailers from relocating out of poorer areas and encourages local retailers to stay open, and a whole lot of other things – but not banning food products. That's just pointless and superficial.

    • November 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm
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      This is the general direction I was hoping someone would take the discussion. Well said, and thanks. I recall hearing a while back that certain CSAs or Farmers Markets were tinkering with sliding scale prices and pay what you can for those who were in dire need. Whether we should ban the happy meal, or outlaw deep fryers is not the issue here. As you've suggested, the real issue is community planning, food security, more affordable healthy options. While the City may not have the ability to ban freedom fries, I'm pretty sure we can help farmers bring more affordable fruits and vegetables to the masses.

  • November 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm
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    maybe bam the thumbs up and thumbs down . They are pointless. I get a negative almost always, but Ryan says the same thing and he gets a plus.

  • November 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm
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    Wow, I think we have a voting troll on our hands. Harvey, let's get rid of the thumbs up/down.

    • November 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm
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      I'm not convinced there is a voting troll, yet. I must say though I do tend to agree with the direction of the votes. Perhaps not the severity in some cases, but that's beside the point. Otherwise, voting on comments is one of the last things I make time for. Perhaps we should follow the direction of City Hall and study it for a few years?

  • November 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm
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    why should those who are not overweight have restrictions placed on their food? you cant make people eat a certain way just because you feel it will help with obesity and being overweight does not necessarily mean you are eating unhealthily (the amount that you are eating is the main issue)

    *note im not a fan of fat people, fast food (i just dont think five guys should be in that same group), or stupid hippies and their unrealistic laws

    • November 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm
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      *note, I'm not a fan of d-bags.

      Fast food does a lot more than just creating "fat people" as you so tolerably refer to them. You can be as skinny as you want, doesn't mean your arteries are clear.

      …and I went into Five Guys yesterday and it smelled like and looked like fast food to me. I guess the question will be whether it's actually fast or not.

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