For many residents in a Californian city with a devout Seventh-Day Adventist population and overall healthy lifestyle, seeing their kids eat a happy meal will not make them smile.
Just a little more than five miles away from McDonald's hometown of San Bernardino sits Loma Linda, California, arguably the healthiest city in America. Community members want to keep it that way, as they are strongly opposing the infiltration of the county's largest fast-food chain into their community, which the city council approved this past December.
ABC News reports that when the issue of a McDonald's franchise coming to Loma Linda was brought before the city council, outraged residents and health professionals packed the meeting room "as if a nuclear waste dump, and not a fast food chain, was coming to town."
The city's 50 percent Seventh-Day Adventist population can partially explain the health-conscious attitude, as the religion strongly encourages followers to abide by a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as an alcohol, tobacco and caffeine-free lifestyle.
"In Corinthians, Paul speaking of the human body says specifically, 'you are the temple of the Holy spirit,'" explains Loma Linda University Church Pastor Randy Roberts to ABC News. "Therefore, he says, whatever you do in your body, you do it to the honor, the glory and the praise of God."
Loma Linda Patch reports that about 50 people, a majority of them from the city's large medical community anchored by the Seventh-Day Adventist affiliated Loma Linda University Medical Center, have protested to the city council that welcoming a McDonald's will tarnish the city's reputation by allowing the chain associated with obesity and poor nutrition to enter their city. The Loma Linda Patch notes that while the city council would prefer to not introduce unhealthy elements into their community, Loma Linda is in need of a commercial center to bring revenue to the city. Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, a Seventh-Day Adventist and a physician himself, tells ABC news that he has the desire to promote health but not at the sacrifice of individual choice.
"I don't think it's the government's responsibility, personally, to legislate vegetarianism; I think if everyone became a vegetarian they would probably have a healthier life, but it has to be their choice," he said.
"I would hate to go to a town where vegetables are outlawed because the majority are meat and potato carnivores," he continued, "to me that doesn't make sense either way; I think people should have options."
Opponents to McDonald's say that they don't want to outlaw indulgences, but do everything they can to maintain a healthy environment.
“We know from research that if a school is near a fast-food restaurant, the kids there are more likely to be obese,” Wayne Dysinger, a physcian and public health professor leading the local charge against McDonald's, told The New York Times. “We will never eliminate unhealthy choices, and pretty much everyone has an unhealthy treat once in a while. I am going to drive by that intersection every day and it’s fairly likely that they will say ‘Oh Daddy, can we stop there’ more often. Why do we need to encourage that?”
While McDonald's may be the first franchise that comes to one's mind when thinking of fast food, it is not the only place with a drive-thru window or dollar menu. In fact, with or without McDonalds, there are plenty of intersections for children to beg their parents for unhealthy food as the city already has a KFC, Del Taco, Weinerschnitzel, Baker's Burger, and Carl's Jr.
McDonald's corporate has responded to the growing controversy about a development of one of their restaurants in Loma Linda, saying in a statement to ABC News:
"We have been working hard over the past several years to ensure we have options on our menu to meet a variety of dietary needs. For example, our line of Premium Salads can be ordered without meat. We also have other offerings including Apple Slices, Oatmeal and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits as well as a variety of portion sizes... McDonald's and our franchisee look forward to working with the Loma Linda City Council and residents to hopefully address any questions or concerns. We believe the new restaurant will support the Loma Linda community with a contemporary dining experience and help fuel economic growth."
We all know that the 'Nanny-State' accusation comes quick when criticizing the federal government or politicians for slamming fast food businesses rather than individuals making their own decision to "super size," but is this case different? Is it a community's right to come together and prohibit a business if a majority of citizens believe that it brings unhealthy elements into their environment? Or should the government stay out of business and rely on capitalism to prevail, wherein if the community really doesn't want a McDonald's, no one will go there and it won't stay in business very long anyway.