The fast food outlet In-N-Out Burger held an on Aug. 15 regarding the . Community members in attendance aired their views on traffic, noise, trash, smell and unsavory characters in their neighborhood. Others voiced their support for an upgrade of a neglected corner that has been an eyesore for a long time.
But what are the health issues of such a proposal? What does such an establishment do for us?
Another fast food eatery — already has a restaurant in Mill Valley — is not a positive development for our nutritional health. More convenient access to healthful foods would be better than more convenient access to burgers and fries. What we eat is dictated by habit and convenience. Living in a community where there is an over abundance of fast food joints makes that food seem normal and more habitual. The convenience just makes it worse.
I remember trying to find lunch in that Novato neighborhood many years ago. I would’ve loved a bit of local flavor, but not knowing where to go, I went to the first neon sign I could see and had fast food.
Another big corporate restaurant in Marin isn't ideal for our county's economic health either. In an ideal world, a locally owned company would be able to develop the site and operate a business there, keeping profits in the community and providing local character.
Novato already has two locally owned burger restaurants in , and . Henry's owner Teddy Attell is a Novato resident, and unlike the big corporate restaurant, he buys locally made ingredients, supports local organizations and spends his profits right here in Novato. Phyllis’ offers grass fed beef from Niman Ranch in Bolinas and buys rolls from Bordenaves Bakery in San Rafael.
The In-N-Out location would displace the where, ironically, you can buy fruit and vegetable seeds (for your garden). The pro In-N-Out argument is that the nursery owner is looking to retire anyway. The con argument is that retirement doesn’t mean he can’t sell his business to another local nursery.
Regarding environmental health, the real cost of fast food is much greater than expected. Worldwide meat production is estimated to emit more greenhouse gasses than do all forms of global transportation or industrial processes combined. In-N-Out Burger ships all of its meat from Texas, adding the environmental cost of transportation to the bill. Fast food outlets are also notoriously large producers of garbage. In and Out says they have recycling bins next to their garbage dumpsters out back, but I can’t imagine they pay someone to open the trash bags and separate out the garbage from the recyclables.
Lastly, there is community health. It was great to see the 100 or so people come out to the community meeting. Unfortunately, the discussion was not at all civil. Speakers were routinely interrupted and accusations were flying on both sides. As one woman left she actually said to a man with an accent to “go back where you came from, you don’t belong here.” I know I haven’t been to enough community meetings, and I know this one was tame compared to others, but I was surprised there was so much vitriol over burgers.