With competitive prices, 24-hour locations, and “nutritious” food, the golden arches might be the biggest unnoticed poverty fighter in town, one Canadian writer said.
Analyzing its effect in Canada in the Financial Post, Matthew Lau lauded McDonald’s for providing social interaction, temporary shelter, bathrooms, and warmth—often in safer conditions than true homeless shelters. (In 2015 the BBC reported on Hong Kong’s “McRefugees,” who sleep at tables, turning the restaurants into hostels for the night.)
Lau said McDonald’s serves some of the best cheap food available. A Big Mac provides 25 grams of protein in 540 calories, a quarter of adult daily food need. But many would take issue with Lau, classifying fast food outlets like McDonalds as major contributors to bad health and poor eating habits that go hand-in-hand with poverty.
Aside from a relatively clean, safe environment, the burger giant, worth over $106 billion in 2017, provides nationwide something even better for fighting poverty: employment.
A 2016 report by the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that those in the food industry are 50 percent more likely to qualify for food stamps due to low or non-living wage, but McDonald’s provides that first job which is so crucial for many young workers. At least one in eight U.S. workers has been employed there. “When it comes to getting [people] on the first rung of the economic ladder, McDonald’s has outdone every anti-poverty organization in the country,” Lau said.
It might not be a poverty-fighting machine, but education options, tuition assistance, and English as a second language programs for employees give some workers hope of mobility. Ann Bissett-Strahl, commenting on Lau’s article, said her high school job at McDonald’s taught her “everything about how to run a business,” and gave “a taste of humility mopping floors and cleaning,” too. —R.H.