Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The "food fascists" have won at Toronto's Sick Children's hospital?

An article in yesterday's Globe and Mail detailed how the Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children has decided not to renew Burger King's lease.

Sadly the move is rather meaningless given the hospital still happily houses Pizza Pizza, Subway and Tim Horton's franchises, and having worked at Sick Kid's when I was a resident, it's not as if their cafeteria doesn't serve equally unhealthy fare.

But meaningless or not, it's a step in the right direction as hospitals should not be thought of as profit centres, and bigger pictures need to be taken into account.

While many commentators on the Globe and Mail's articles raged on about how the "food fascists", or the, "modern Puritans" have won I can't help but wonder if they think things through.

While indeed it's true that sick children's spirits can be uplifted by less than healthy foods, it's certainly not as if junk food can't be purchased elsewhere and brought in. Hospitals selling unhealthy foods and promoting unhealthy brands and lifestyle practices are anathema to the concept of a hospital as a vanguard of health. Also important to consider, in our single payer health care system, the sale of unhealthy foods, however profitable, are ultimately bad for business. It's bad for business both by means of the hospital further normalizing the purchase and consumption of nutritional garbage for children, and it's bad for business in that while the children are hopefully only going to be there for days at a time, the staff spend their lifetimes walking those halls and eating that food.

Hospital food has a long way to go before it can rightly serve as an example to which other institutions strive. That said, here's hoping we puritanical food fascists notch more and larger victories on our bedposts - these symbolic ones, while nice, don't make a whole heck of a lot of difference.

(Apropos image of a shuttered Burger King inside Toronto's Sick Kids' hospital from the Consumer Complaints blog)