Food Desert Update: The McDonald’s Edition

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[UPDATE: Don’t miss this: “Ronald McDonald brings his Friendship Adventure to Westfield’s Highland elementary School,” Masslive, 1/18/12]

This invitation to the “Grand Reopening” of the McDonald’s in the North End (right) was sent on the same day it was reported that the wonderful Indian restaurant, Sitar, will be closing its doors after 21 years. While the two restaurants are both on Main Street, 0.7 miles apart (map), they are in different worlds.

The barren area around Liberty street, dominated by the Peter Pan bus station and the Republican, marks the transition from Springfield’s dead downtown to the Puerto Rican North End neighborhood, where this McDonald’s is one of the most prominent businesses.

In fact, this restaurant (and a Spanish language billboard for it, located on the side of a liquor store) was featured in our popular Environmental Justice Tour of the North End last summer.

And I shudder to imagine the pageantry that will accompany this event. Sounds crazy? Check out what Holyoke (mind you, the pre-Alex Morse Holyoke) thought was appropriate for the Grand Reopening of their McDonald’s in 2009. (Photo below.)

What was true in 2009 is more so today: Latino communities in Springfield and Holyoke are ground zero of the obesity epidemic in Massachusetts. Food deserts in Springfield are expanding, and junk food is increasingly the only option. The human and financial (health care) costs are unbearable. Fast food is simply not an equitable or sustainable form of economic development.

It’s worth pointing out that while McDonald’s is the quintessential multinational corporation, both McDonald’s franchise locations are minority-owned. More evidence that small minority-owned businesses are the economy of the future.

Miss Massahcusetts 2009, former Holyoke Mayor Sullivan, the American Legion United Forces, and Ronald McDonald himself celebrate together. (Photo: MFR 2009)