Press Release March 24, 2023
Health Kimberley Opposes Proposed McDonald’s in Marysville
By: Jeff Vallance, Ph.D., Board Member, Healthy Kimberley
We at Healthy Kimberley are concerned about recent communications from the City of Kimberley (both in the Kimberley Bulletin and the February 13th, 2023 Regular Council Agenda) regarding the proposed development of a restaurant/gas station in Marysville. We were disturbed that the proposal is for a McDonald’s restaurant. If this proposal is passed, the Golden Arches will be the first thing greeting visitors coming from the south as they round the corner around Bootleg Gap.
Kimberley views itself as a progressive community. The focus has always been local. Kimberley is abundant with green space, nature, renowned trail networks, opportunities for active commuting, and outstanding locally owned restaurants serving food made with quality ingredients (many of these ingredients are produced in our region). We are an active, unique, and vibrant community. That came through loud and clear last year when we were voted BC’s Best Small Town. Visitors rave about Kimberley. One of the features they often appreciate is Kimberley’s lack of fast-food restaurants. ‘The town is just…different’, they say.
The health impacts of ultra-processed food, which is what McDonald’s offers, are well-documented. The large scientific evidence base has concluded that the nutrient profiles of energy-dense takeaway and fast foods contribute to a host of negative health consequences, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor heart health (e.g., coronary artery disease), depression, digestive diseases, stroke, liver disease, and some cancers. The research also suggests neighborhoods with fast-food outlets have a higher prevalence of unhealthy lifestyles and poorer mental health, and an increased risk of obesity. These findings are not swayed by personal bias. Instead, these facts are a result of decades of peer-reviewed and published scientific research in the world’s leading health science and medical journals.
And before you say, ‘You can eat healthy at McDonald’s…just order a salad!’ Unfortunately, salads accounted for only ~2% of sales and were dropped from the menu during the pandemic. And most kids don’t choose the apple slices over fries.
The proposed location in Marysville is not a coincidence given the high density of families with younger children in Marysville. Marysville is home to an ice rink, soccer fields, and an elementary school across the street. McDonald’s history of unethical marketing toward adolescents and children is well documented. A recent 2021 publication in the British Medical Journal concluded that McDonald’s social media marketing campaigns were most often targeted to children, and disturbingly, this marketing is even more evident in the world’s most vulnerable countries. And yes, this happens in Canada. A 2021 study from the University of Ottawa found McDonald’s contravened broadcast restrictions on advertising for preschoolers.
We have a distinct culture (as well as a distinct food culture) here in Kimberley, where the vibe is about being active, being out in nature, eating real food, shopping at the Farmer’s Market for local goods, and connecting with the community. A McDonald’s in Marysville would put us down a slippery slope where we could eventually be on par with smaller cities in BC and Alberta that look more like a fast-food nation rather than a vibrant, progressive, and healthy community. These smaller cities most often have a strip featuring several fast-food chains (food deserts, as those communities are known as) and limited options for healthy food. Several municipalities in North America have implemented zoning bans on fast-food restaurants and drive-thru establishments for several reasons, including promoting health, maintaining the visual appeal of the community (let’s be honest, McDonald’s and gas stations are not visually appealing), protecting the local economy, and reducing environmental impact (e.g., idling in a vehicle) (Nykiforuk et al., 2018). The City of Kimberley should join communities like our West Kootenay neighbors in Nelson, who have adopted progressive zoning bylaws for fast-food.
We urge Council to reconsider this proposal. We understand the importance of community growth and expanding the tax base, but not with regressive policies that impact the health and well-being of Kimberley residents. We expect Council to be innovative and generate healthy public policy. The City staff report recommended that the Mayor and Council reject this proposal, and we agree. Opening up a discussion with community members about fast-food restaurants and other drive-thru establishments would be a good start and should be the focus moving forward. Marysville residents should be consulted on this proposal before moving forward.
We urge Kimberley residents to voice their concerns with City Council regarding this proposal for a McDonald’s and gas station in our community.
Jeff Vallance, Ph.D., is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Management in the Faculty of Health Disciplines at Athabasca University. He is a Kimberley resident and a member of the Board of Directors of Healthy Kimberley.
About Healthy Kimberley
Healthy Kimberley promotes activities that broadly target the Kimberley community, as well as activities that specifically target children, youth (especially low-income or otherwise vulnerable), and seniors. We work to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Healthy Kimberley works to build awareness of the existing assets/resources in the community, enhance collaboration and assist in breaking down barriers to participation. You can find us online at www.healthykimberley.com.