Michelle Obama

You Can Get Chick-Fil-A at the DNC, But Good Luck Finding a Salad

Does Michelle Obama know the DNC is a "food desert"?

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Michelle Obama and food deserts
Ron Sachs/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Early on in her tenure as First Lady, Michelle Obama decided to make childhood obesity her cause célèbre, which is a completely worthwhile effort and will certainly age better than Nancy Reagan's zero tolerance drug prohibitionist "Just Say No" campaign.

But Mrs. Obama hasn't been merely urging American youth to get off their sedentary asses and run around for a little bit each day, she's also used the bully pulpit of her ceremonial position to advocate for the end of king-sized candy bars and to chastise a young Olympian on national TV for admitting that all she wanted was an Egg McMuffin.

The First Lady also pushed for a government solution to the supposed problem of "food deserts," generally defined as low-income urban areas with a paucity of grocery stores and restaurants featuring healthy culinary options.

After two days covering the Democratic National Convention (DNC), held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, I'd like to make my own plea: Michelle, this place is a food desert and we need your help. 

The food is horrible at the DNC, when it's available at all. Try to imagine going to a sold-out Philadelphia Flyers game with only one of every five kiosks in the concourse open. Lines are interminably long for hot lamp-warmed pizza, hot dogs, and various fried grease and meat-like substances. I heard uncomfirmed reports that complimentary meals were scarce even for arena and convention employees.

Particularly appalling to friends of Reason such as Fox Business host Kennedy is the inexplicable shuttering of the Gluten-Free station. And if you want a cup of coffee, you'd better be ok with getting your caffeine fix from a $5 can of Pepsi.

Centrally planned food desert at the DNC!
Reason/Anthony L. Fisher

Despite being housed on a sprawling sports complex shared by the Phillies' Citizen Bank Park and the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field, the only dining options outside the arena are a handful of food trucks, four of which specialize in (wait for it) cheesesteaks. There is also a "Sushi Burrito" truck, a Korean taco truck (my personal favorite, and one that proudly advertises its vegan options), and a large pavilion featuring more burgers, hot dogs, BBQ, and in the only surprise to be found, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches. 

Yes, that's the same Chick-Fil-A which some Democratic mayors, including former Obama administration Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, wanted to ban from doing business in their cities because of the anti-gay views of the company's president.

About a five minute walk from the arena but within the security perimeter, there's a standard sports bar, which from what I could tell is the only place in the entire securitized DNC area where the general public can order a salad.

Put simply, this place is a food desert. And considering the Democratic Party is the one which prides itself on the virtues of central planning, as well as health, wellness, and hipness, the irony is rich if not satisfying enough to gain any sustenance from.

While the dietary problems of a few thousand convention-goers might not amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, it appears that

Chick-Fil-A at the DNC
Reason/Anthony L. Fisher

food deserts are probably not the existential crisis we were led to believe.

Writing for the National Review in 2014, Alec Torres noted a study conducted by Health Affairs which examined more than a thousand residents of Philadelphia (of all places), "who formerly lived in areas considered food deserts but have since seen grocery stores built within 1.5 miles of their residences." According to Torres:

Six months after supermarkets were built, the researchers found only 26.7 percent of those who lived near one of the newly built grocery stores ended up using the grocery store as their main food source. Within that 26.7 percent there was no significant improvement in body-mass index or intake of fruits and vegetables.

The findings led the authors of the study to write that "this indicates that simply providing new food retail stores is insufficient to encourage the adoption of new stores as residents' main food source." Residents who didn't adopt the new stores, it is assumed, continued to use the old, less-healthy alternative.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) essentially admitted that the $500 million spent by the government "to attract supermarkets or improve existing stores in underserved areas" was a failure. Turns out the price of food and "household and neighborhood resources, education, and taste preferences may be more important determinants of food choice than store proximity," according to the USDA's official magazine Amber Waves.

Real original, guys.
Reason/Anthony L. Fisher

The fact that a taxpayer-infusion of half a billion dollars was not enough to change eating habits in "food desert" neighborhoods demonstrates the folly of looking for a purely top-down solution to American obesity. As my colleague Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote last month, "You can lead human beings to Whole Foods, but you can't make them buy organic kale there."

Still, as an omnivore who chooses not to eat meat every day and does my best to eat well (or at least not horribly) when possible, I was kind of hoping the food and health scolds of the Democratic Party would have used their quadrennial four-day informercial as a venue for savory yet nutritious fare.

I can't stress enough how much available space there is to be had for food trucks and stands outside the arena. The 2016 DNC could have been a farm-to-table Woodstock, with ambitious and health-conscious food vendors from all over the country competing for delegates' and journalists' dinner dollars. Instead, some of us are smuggling bottles of V8 into the venue and buying tiny pretzel-and-hummus snack packs for $4. 

Mrs. Obama, I'm just looking for some greens while I'm in town. Do you think you could help me out by throwing a little of the side-eye you threw at Gabby Douglas (for admitting she likes McDonald's) in the direction of DNC organizers? 

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  1. Isn’t Chick-Fil-A problematic?

    1. That’s not okay.

      1. One should really read Michelle O’s senior thesis at Harvard or Yale or where ever she went.

        Not only is it utter nonsense, it is replete with every angry, militant rant of an uneducated, confused, envious leftist.

        She basically sounds like the crazy person that you cross the street to get away from.

        Very funny. Just like her stupid husband.

    2. Like all bullsh*t artists, she is too damned stupid to keep up with her schemes.

    3. Like all bullsh*t artists, she is too damned stupid to keep up with her schemes.

  2. But intentions! Optics! That is all that matters….

    BTW, I’d freakin’ love a Chik-fil-A sandwich about now.

    1. One opened recently on my commute.

      Holy crap, do they ever have a loyal following. Never had it, myself, but I’ll probably grab one next time Mrs. Dean is out of town and the Rancho Dean is a temporary food desert.

      1. I’m quite the fan of their spicy chicken sandwiches, lemonade, and waffle fries. I need to stop posting while hungry…

      2. I’ve had it and it’s good but I mustn’t order right. The one by my house must serve a side of crack. No matter the time, the drive-thru is mobbed with the line outside the parking alot. In fact, they have too people with menus and clipboards that walk up to cars so you can order. It still takes 15 minutes to get to the window.

        The sauce is outstanding. You could eat a shoe with it.

  3. “Mrs. Obama, I’m just looking for some greens while I’m in town.”

    Collard greens with bacon?

    1. Triggered!!

  4. I still haven’t ever had a product from Chick-Fil-A

    1. You haven’t missed much. It isn’t inedible (the way some “health food” is) but it isn’t ambrosia either. Much prefer Popeyes.

    2. Neither have I, but if one was convenient I would try it just to see if the chicken sandwich is actually as good as alleged.

    3. You’re missing out, their chicken tenders are pretty good, and their waffle fries are excellent.

      1. Now I want waffle fries for lunch.

      2. Waffle fries are an abomination.

        1. Waffle fries allow ketchup to fill in the holes.

          They are awesome.

          Plus, when super hot, the CFA ones dont need ketchup.

          1. I like wedge or steak fries. Shoe string fries enrage me to no end.

            1. Giant fries are too potatoey to put ketchup on. They aren’t bad with black pepper and some seasoned salt though.

            2. Shoestring fries are an affront to God.

              All other fries are good. Even sweet potato ones.

        2. No, sweet potato fries are. Or sweet potato anything.

          1. You guys have terrible taste.

            1. Amen. I love sweet potatoes in many things, but they are entirely nonfungible with regular potatoes (except as a plain buttered roasted one). Those fries are a travesty.

              1. Philistine.

                Sweet potato fries dusted with hot chili powder and salt – deelish.

          2. This x1000. Sweet potatoes make me nauseous.

          3. Sweet potato fries are good. But sweet potato waffle fries, that’s just too much.

        3. Waffle fries are fires the way God intended, waffley. Great for those that like dipping their fries in ketchup or mayonnaise.

            1. No love for CFA Polynesian sauce?

      3. They need to bring back spicy nuggets.

        They also recently eliminated the spicy chicken biscuit for breakfast and replaced it with some kind of grilled chicken breakfast sandwich. WTF Chick Fila.

        1. And bring back their brownies? those were awesome.

    4. You should.

      Just don’t expect something life altering, it is still just fast food.

      The most interesting thing is the relative level or service compared to every other fast food restaurant.

      1. This is another thing. It’s like being served by Mormon missionaries.

        1. How much of this is the result (indirectly or directly) of being closed on Sunday?

          1. The Cathys are hardcore socons, so it’s a direct result. They’re also apparently very picky about who they let set up franchises, and limit the number one person can own so the owners are more invested in the success of the store.

    5. You’re not missing anything

      1. I won’t disparage the food because it seems there are 30 cars in the drive through all day long. However, I had one of their wraps years ago and it had no taste.

        1. The food is not bad, but he isn’t missing anything special.

        2. I’m not a fan of their wraps but I’d eat the chicken sandwiches and waffle fries all day long if I wouldn’t blow up like a balloon.

    6. You should, if only for the customer service. I swear, the staff at a Chick-Fil-A are the nicest, most helpful people for any fast food restaurant that I have ever been to.

      1. I’m hearing mixed reviews of the food, and being from NYC I couldn’t care less how nice the staff are. Just don’t fuck up my order.

        1. I am interested in what the service is like in an NYC Chik-fil-a.

          1. The service at Five Guys, Chipotle and the like is great – probably similar to that.

            1. Meh, I’ve never had great experiences there. Decent, and more involved than at a McDonald’s, but nothing Mormon-like.

      2. Indeed the service is uncharacteristic of a fast food place.

        Frequently when I’ve eaten at Chick-Fil-A, if an employee walks by and notices I’ve finished eating they’ll offer to take the tray and sometimes even refill my drink.

        Couple months back whoever brought us our food also dropped a card for a complimentary chicken sandwich because (by their standards I suppose) service was a little slow that day. Personally I didn’t think the service was noticeably slow.

        1. I used pass by the same Chick-Fil-A frequently as part of my work. Every time I ever went in there, the *manager* of the place was constantly walking the floor of the dining area, taking finished trays from people and refilling their drinks.

          I’ve been to CFA many, many times and never had a bad service experience. The food is pretty good for fast food, but nothing exceptional. The service is why I keep going back.

      3. The service qualifies as super-creepy at times, for my taste. There’s “helpful” and then there’s “dead-eyed cultist”.

        1. They are nothing. You ought to call Sunshine Carpet Cleaners. Ask for Tania.

    7. That’s crazy. Now that there is one on pantops you can get home before your waffle fries turn cold! Or at least, I can.

      The spicy chicken sandwich is delicious.

  5. Read your Mencken. Horrible food at the Conventions is a long standing tradition. You don’t want to abandon tradition, do you?

  6. Particularly appalling to friends of Reason such as Fox Business host Kennedy is the inexplicable shuttering of the Gluten-Free station.

    Well, since less than 1% of the population has Celiac disease, this station isn’t really practical in the first place.

    1. I think the Celiacs have a love-hate relationship with the hypochondriacs. They have contempt for them and are thoroughly tired of hearing them carry forth, and of the way they make real Celiacs look by association. But, as you point out, they are driving an explosion of availability that genuine sufferers would never be able to support alone.

    2. Thought I saw a pretty big study recently that indicated “gluten-sensitivity” was pretty much complete hypochondria. I assume there are a few actual conditions (like celiac?) that actually make you gluten-sensitive, but for the vast majority, its in their heads, not their guts.

      1. Thought I saw a pretty big study recently that indicated “gluten-sensitivity” was pretty much complete hypochondria.

        True, RC. Celiac is an actual digestive rejection (very similar to an allergic response) to wheat products, of which gluten is a primary component.

        The amount of patients with true (read: DX’d against a the full spread of substances associated with rejection digestive maladies) “gluten-sensitivity” – a misnomer at best – is remarkably low, running concurrent to the 1% of the population demonstrably DX’d with Celiac Disease or gluten-rejection S/S disease process,

        Abstract from the study you viewed. I have the original study if you want it, RC, though your hospital’s Gastro-Ent Dept. should have a copy.

      2. Another way of putting it, is “GLOOTEN FREE!” is the nutritional equivalent of Robby X/Fruit Sushi’s SJW Social Signalling Screeds:

        Though most are total inconsistent FEELZ! horseshit, there are a few legit & authentic cases, though careful diagnostic criteria must be applied for successful disease discovery & management.

        1. My father was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and someone told my mother what helps is going “gluten free.” I lost my mind. Changing their diet would make them healthier, but changing to gluten free would not. However, they have a fine supply of gluten free cookies, so that’s nice.

  7. The fact that a taxpayer-infusion of half a billion dollars was not enough to change eating habits in “food desert” neighborhoods demonstrates the folly of looking for a purely top-down solution to American obesity.

    They’re just not doing it hard enough. Next step: require people to shop at their local neighborhood grocery store. Because it works so well for public schools.

    1. I’ve been saying this for years, but could we contemplate the wonder that the primary dietary problem of our poor is that THEY ARE TOO FAT?

  8. “…according to the USDA’s official magazine Amber Waves.”

    The USDA named their magazine after a porn star?

    Also, I drive by one of those sushi burrito joints a few times a week. What goes on in there?

    1. uncut sushi rolls.

      with interesting fillings

      it kinda looks like a burrito.

  9. Nancy Reagan’s zero tolerance drug prohibitionist “Just Say No” campaign.

    That’s, “Just say no, OR ELSE.”

  10. throwing a little of the side-eye

    My word.

    some of us are smuggling bottles of V8 into the venue and buying tiny pretzel-and-hummus snack packs for $4.

    I am going to pretend that V8 is infused with some sort of mind altering substance.

    1. They’re Democrats. Their minds are already altered.

  11. Not to defend the DNC, but Chik-fil-A has pretty good salads

    1. Maybe not at a temporary set up like a pavilion, though.

  12. I hope everyone at the convention starves to death over the remaining few days of the convention. Or a meteor hits it. I’ll take either.

    1. *crosses fingers*

      Come on Zombie outbreak!

      1. It’s the DNC. They are already zombies!

      2. The problem with zombie outbreak is that the rest of us will have to deal with it and fight them.

        And you just know Zombie Hillary would gain enough sentience to declare that we all had to become zombies, thus ensuring that at least 1/4 of the population would.

    2. Let’s go for starve to death as I drive on I-95 by the stadia from time to time.

      1. You may just have to go ahead and take one for the team. We’ll send your family a plaque or something, if its any consolation.

        1. Commodore Barry Bridge, here I come.

  13. You Can Get Chick-Fil-A at the DNC

    You can’t fool me… this is just some Mandela Effect bullshit right here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrYEKBetFRw

  14. Try to imagine going to a sold-out Philadelphia Flyers game with only one of every five kiosks in the concourse open.

    Why, you wouldn’t have the energy to boo your own goaltender!

  15. this place is a food desert

    It’s a good thing most people don’t live in the middle of a suburban style sports park/complex.

  16. You could totally make people buy kale, you just have to hope harder! Probably my least favorite part of the ACA is how much more central control it justifies, sort of legitimately too; if you’re paying for my healthcare of course you have a bit of a real stake in it, seems to me.

    1. And no more skydiving, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking…

      That shit is dangerous.

  17. Jeebus on a crutch. When you’re planning a big event, the first thing you do is get the venue, but the second thing, the second thing, is arrange for the food. The base-level incompetence on display here is just amazing.

    1. You don’t think any of the people who appear at the podium are eating the crap from the food stands do you?

    2. but the second thing, the second thing, is arrange for the food

      Like any good, authentic, and true, commie soc outfit, food supply managment and distribution is an afterthought, RC.

      1. “food supply managment and distribution for the masses is an afterthought”

        FTFY

        1. No need to be fixed Nate; in any good, authentic, and true, commie soc outfit, it is a given that the party elect will be taken care of, regardless of the condition of the masses, and should be implicitly assumed. Do you see or hear of Maduro starving?

          As Mel Brooks astutely stated, “It’s good the be The King!”

          1. Fair enough.

            Sorry if that came off sounding dickish, it wasn’t my intent.

  18. And if you want a cup of coffee, you’d better be ok with getting your caffeine fix from a $5 can of Pepsi.

    Ok, i was going to say that this whole thing was an extended “first world problems” complaint until this…. at which point i say…

    THIS INJUSTICE CANNOT STAND
    (smears blue paint on naked body and prepares to makes Braveheart-esque speech to the DNC audience)

    Seriously, you can fuck everything else up, but don’t fuck up the coffee. that’s like rule #1 of…. anything. That’s why the Soviet Union fell.

  19. The 2016 DNC could have been a farm-to-table Woodstock, with ambitious and health-conscious food vendors from all over the country competing for delegates’ and journalists’ dinner dollars.

    That’s funny.

    Next you’ll tell me the Democrats could have based their platform on a deep and abiding faith in the ability of people (individually or in groups) to creatively solve problems without the guidance of Top Men.

  20. which is a completely worthwhile effort and will certainly age better than Nancy Reagan’s zero tolerance drug prohibitionist “Just Say No” campaign.

    Its is not and it will not.

    Its vicious state domination of people’s choices and it will end up *worse* than the WoD if we let it.

  21. Its vicious state domination of people’s choices

    SWATters from Health and Human Services kicking down the doors of purveyors of contraband cotton candy and other “empty calorie” treats.

  22. Definitely my favorite story of the day so far.

  23. No halal market? Why are they such Islamophobes?

    1. Everything is halal.

      No need to tell anyone.

  24. More of the same from the Liberal Left– Do as we say and not as we do. This from the people who want to control every aspect of our lives.

  25. The menu at the DNC should have been the same as what is imposed on K-12 students…..

  26. However, eating a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t mean surviving solely on carrot juice, rabbit food and bird seed. All you have to do is really simple. Eat from a wide variety of food groups in the right quantities to maintain the energy and nutrients a healthy adult needs.

  27. However, eating a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t mean surviving solely on carrot juice, rabbit food and bird seed. All you have to do is really simple. Eat from a wide variety of food groups in the right quantities to maintain the energy and nutrients a healthy adult needs.

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