Academia, Government, and McDonald’s

Ron and grad

Bloomberg stringers Michael Wei and Margaret Conley reported the astonishing news that acceptance into the Chinese branch of McDonald’s Hamburger University is harder to attain than admission to Harvard University. What they meant was, the ratio of applications to acceptances is under 1% at Shanghai’s corporate training center, whereas Harvard magnanimously takes in around 7% of the students who apply there.

This is one of seven senior management training centers McDonald’s maintains throughout the world, the first having been established in Illinois way back in 1961. The tuition for the aspiring Chinese managers is free to them, paid by the company. This particular leadership training course lasts five days and is said to cost McDonald’s just over $1,500 per student. That includes the salaries of translators who handle English, Mandarin, and Cantonese for the benefit of the instructors and the diverse student body.

The report says:

The school last year trained 1,000 of the almost 70,000 employees McDonald’s has in mainland China… Another 4,000 people will attend classes at the training center through 2014… McDonald’s has 1,300 stores in China and aims to have 2,000 by 2013.

That’s, like, 700 new outlets by next year. Just imagine how many new health problems will descend upon the Chinese. But never mind that, managing a hamburger franchise sounds like a great job to most people in the immense land, where about a quarter of the country’s college graduates are unemployed.

Speaking of the unemployed, in America, a lot of jobless people are eating at McDonald’s, and the fast food industry wants them to be able to use food stamps. While the Yum Brands corporation seems to be leading the charge, the McDonald’s troops are not far behind. Actually, “food stamps” is an outdated term. They have plastic cards now, and the bureaucracy is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The cynical view is that, under the guise of caring about the poor, fast food chains are lobbying for the ability to accept food stamps in payment so their own bank balances will be even further enriched.

After an introduction by David Paul Morris, The New York Times asked food policy experts to comment. Morris says:

Nearly 50 million Americans rely on food stamps… While the rising rolls can be linked to increasing joblessness, many low-wage workers also rely on the benefits. Some anti-hunger advocates would like to make it easier for them to use food stamps, by relaxing rules forbidding their use to buy fast food.

Dr. Michelle Gourdine has a firm opinion:

These poor nutrition habits contribute to an obesity epidemic that affects everyone, especially children, the poor and people of color. That’s why allowing food stamps to be used at fast food restaurants is absurd. It makes no sense to use government funds to purchase foods that contribute to disease and increased health care costs.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation agrees, and he wants the rules tightened up even more, to forbid the use of food stamps to buy junk food in grocery stores, as is now allowed. Proponents of this measure say, if food stamp recipients must have junk food, they can always buy it with their own money. And why do anything with public policy that would promote the overall consumption of more low-nutrition calories?

Tom Laskawy points out that, despite the prohibition against SNAP benefits being used to buy prepared foods, national law has actually provided an exception in the case of recipients who are elderly, disabled, or homeless. In the past 30 years, only five states have taken advantage of that provision, and maybe there’s a reason why the states have made that decision. It’s a good argument, some say, for not forcing it at the federal level. Laskawy regrets:

… the growing conflict between food reformers and nutritionists on the one side, and anti-hunger advocates on the other. It’s a fight that serves no one’s interests and only complicates our ability to help those in need.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Getting Into Harvard Easier Than McDonald’s University in China,” Bloomberg, 01/21/11
Source: “Expand the Use of Food Stamps?,” The New York Times, 09/27/11
Image of Ron McDonald by learningexecutive (Dirk Tussing), used under its Creative Commons license.
Image of the hamburger/grad by Mike Licht,, used under its Creative Commons license.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources