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Burgers Anyone?

What would the proposed expansion of In-N-Out Burger into Novato do for our health?

The fast food outlet In-N-Out Burger held an on Aug. 15 regarding the . Community members in attendance aired their views on traffic, noise, trash, smell and unsavory characters in their neighborhood. Others voiced their support for an upgrade of a neglected corner that has been an eyesore for a long time.

But what are the health issues of such a proposal? What does such an establishment do for us?

Another fast food eatery — already has a restaurant in Mill Valley — is not a positive development for our nutritional health. More convenient access to healthful foods would be better than more convenient access to burgers and fries. What we eat is dictated by habit and convenience. Living in a community where there is an over abundance of fast food joints makes that food seem normal and more habitual. The convenience just makes it worse.

I remember trying to find lunch in that Novato neighborhood many years ago. I would’ve loved a bit of local flavor, but not knowing where to go, I went to the first neon sign I could see and had fast food.

Another big corporate restaurant in Marin isn't ideal for our county's economic health either. In an ideal world, a locally owned company would be able to develop the site and operate a business there, keeping profits in the community and providing local character.
Novato already has two locally owned burger restaurants in , and . Henry's owner Teddy Attell is a Novato resident, and unlike the big corporate restaurant, he buys locally made ingredients, supports local organizations and spends his profits right here in Novato. Phyllis’ offers grass fed beef from Niman Ranch in Bolinas and buys rolls from Bordenaves Bakery in San Rafael.

The In-N-Out location would displace the where, ironically, you can buy fruit and vegetable seeds (for your garden). The pro In-N-Out argument is that the nursery owner is looking to retire anyway. The con argument is that retirement doesn’t mean he can’t sell his business to another local nursery.

Regarding environmental health, the real cost of fast food is much greater than expected. Worldwide meat production is estimated to emit more greenhouse gasses than do all forms of global transportation or industrial processes combined. In-N-Out Burger ships all of its meat from Texas, adding the environmental cost of transportation to the bill. Fast food outlets are also notoriously large producers of garbage. In and Out says they have recycling bins next to their garbage dumpsters out back, but I can’t imagine they pay someone to open the trash bags and separate out the garbage from the recyclables. 

Lastly, there is community health. It was great to see the 100 or so people come out to the community meeting. Unfortunately, the discussion was not at all civil. Speakers were routinely interrupted and accusations were flying on both sides. As one woman left she actually said to a man with an accent to “go back where you came from, you don’t belong here.” I know I haven’t been to enough community meetings, and I know this one was tame compared to others, but I was surprised there was so much vitriol over burgers.

Ross Ingels August 24, 2011 at 09:51 PM
Dear Mr Hoeber, You are the co-owner of a health club, a registered dietitian, and most importantly a resident of MILL VALLEY? If you don't want fast food, then don't eat it. If you don't want to drive to Novato to eat at our In-n-Out then don't. In-n-Out would be a great asset to our community, provide jobs to local teens and be a huge improvement over what is currently at that location. Thank you for your opinion piece, but your time would be better spent in your own town.
Tony Elshout August 24, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Lynne, One double double per week is not going hurt anyone. The rest of the week one can eat a more balanced meal. By the way, In-N-Out does serve a Veggie Burger: tomatoes, lettuce and onion on a great bun.
Lynne Wasley August 24, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Tony, thanks for your comment. You're right, a double double 1x/wk isn't going to hurt much, but unfortunately people, teens especially, often eat fast food more than once a week -- and w/ the addition of fries and a shake, even 1x/week can be problematic. Thanks for the heads-up on the veggie burger, I rarely eat fast food, but still good to know.
Thomas August 25, 2011 at 09:56 AM
Hear Hear! Only in Marin can we keep self aggrandizing ourselves at the cost of simple common sense. It's not that big of a deal people. If you don't want to eat there, don't. If in-n-out makes a bad product and people don't buy it, they won't be there. You can eat a healthy organic lifestyle (which I and mine do) and still have a nice burger sometimes.
Uncle Harry August 25, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Thanks for reminding me about In and Out. I will have for a late lunch this afternoon. Should I drive all the way to Petaluma, or go to Mill Valley? We need one in central Marin so that we do not drive 10 miles for a two dollar burger.

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