Questions are being raised over the health of regional Australians as fast-food giant McDonald’s plans to expand its empire into towns across the country.
The expansion of 100 new McDonald’s Australia restaurants over the next two years will see the infamous yellow ‘M’ moving into some towns that have battled to keep the fast-food giant out of their backyards.
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About a third of the additional Maccas chain restaurants will end up in towns, and regional and remote areas, with experts warning the move will boost local economies but will also expand local waistbands.
President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia Megan Belotsaid it poses a definite danger for rural patients who already have an increased risk of obesity.
“It’s nice to think that there’s going to be more jobs and opportunities for our younger people to work in a place like McDonald’s, but realistically we don’t need fast food in our smaller rural communities,” Belot said.
Concerned that fast food restaurants will take the place of fresh fruit and vegetables, Belot believes the focus should be on greater access to more fresh food for regional communities.
“Because half the time that actually can be quite a struggle, especially for remote communities.”
Belot said the move could see Australia follow the likes of other nations where “food deserts” are wreaking havoc on marginalized and regional communities.
“Food deserts” are areas where poverty, poor public transport and a shortage of supermarkets severely limit access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.
Meanwhile, chief economist at the Regional Australia Institute Dr Kim Houghtonsaid the move by McDonald’s follows the growing trend that came during the Covid pandemic or a tree-change.
“Regions really weren’t as affected by those capital city lockdowns in 2020 and bounced back much faster than the city,” Houghton said.
“And couple that with a very good agricultural season on the east coast and there’s a lot of optimization in our inland places. I think that would play well into the business planning for McDonald’s expansion.”
– Dr Houghton
It seems only time will tell, as to whether economic reward outweighs potential health risks to communities, as McDonalds fast-food restaurants spring up across regional and remote Australia.
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