Credit: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Plant-based nutrition advocates pick a fight with planned Chick-fil-A at Augusta children's hospital
LISTEN: Health and nutrition advocates are using nearby billboards to protest a new restaurant at the Children's Hospital of Georgia in Augusta. The billboards ask, “Children’s Hospital: Can a Greasy Fast-Food Meal Help Her Heal?” GPB’s Ellen Eldridge reports.
Some nutrition advocates are picking a fight with Georgia’s favorite fast-food restaurant.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit health group, wants Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta to rethink its decision to allow a Chick-fil-A restaurant to open near its ground floor entrance, where a McDonald's recently closed.
The group posted three billboards near the hospital that show a young girl in an oxygen mask, lying in a hospital bed. She appears to be sleeping while hugging a stuffed bear.
PCRM poses the question, “Children’s Hospital: Can a Greasy Fast-Food Meal Help Her Heal?” and mocks Chick-fil-A's slogan with a link to EatMoreChickpeas.com.
Chick-fil-A and the Children’s Hospital of Georgia both declined to comment on the billboard campaign.
Anna Herby, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a doctorate in health sciences, said PCRM focuses on promoting health through preventative medicine like diet.
“A big problem in our country when it comes to nutrition is eating too much meat,” Herby said. “So we do talk a lot about reducing meat, [and] replacing meat with plant-based proteins, especially beans, because we know those are so healthy.”
But the group’s opposition to Chick-fil-A goes beyond its sale of meat. A popular side dish is mentioned as well.
“French fries,” Herby said. "I mean, obviously, we want to stay away from fried food because fat is such a huge contributor to chronic diseases (such as heart disease and diabetes)."
“A high-fat diet interferes with the body’s insulin production and contributes to obesity," Herby said. “Fried foods are just so high in calories; you're just getting a ton of calories and not a lot of nutrients.”
Jeannie Johnson understands the need for proper nutrition when caring for anyone, especially a chronically ill child, but she said she gets it that sometimes the body just needs comfort in the form of food.
“Chick-fil-A isn't the only choice,” she said. “If you don't want your kid to eat Chick-fil-A, then don't buy them Chick-fil-A. But parents are there, and parents are stressed, and parents, you know, deserve choices, too.”
She said it’s hard enough to find the food her daughter’s diet demands.
“I think a bigger problem with the children's hospitals that we've experienced, with the cafeteria, is that there aren't many allergen-friendly options,” Johnson said. “I know tons of kids who have food allergies and there just aren't that many options.”
That’s why she said she usually takes food with them into the hospital when her daughter gets admitted.
“If you have a gluten and dairy allergy, you have safe options at Chick-fil-A that you don't really even have in a children's hospital cafeteria,” Johnson said.
But experts like Stephanie McBurnett, a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist with the Physicians Committee, still say fast food causes more problems than it solves.
“High-fat fast food can contribute to the rising rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes that we are now seeing in children and teens,” McBurnett said. “If the Children’s Hospital of Georgia would like to be a place of wellness and healing, it should provide only affordable, plant-based options that can help people prevent diabetes, reduce high blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight, among other benefits.”
A Chick-fil-A deluxe sandwich has 490 calories and 22 grams of fat, including 6 grams of saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease.
McBurnett recommends places serving items like black bean burgers, roasted sweet potatoes and vegetable chili.
The billboards will stay up until Aug. 6.