5 Surprising Places You’ll Find Fast Food—From the Olympic Village to the Skies

August 18, 2016

These Olympic Games have not failed to surprise us, have they? The thrills of the races on the track or in the pool … the unexpected world records and medalists … the athletes who were expected to go far, but didn’t.

Another surprise that may have caught some Olympics aficionados off-guard doesn’t have anything to do with sports: there’s a huge McDonald’s smack-dab in the middle of Rio’s Olympic Village, handing out Big Macs, boxes of fries, nuggets, and sodas—for free. Apparently, the line of athletes has been out the door most days. One Australian badminton player, upon completing his Olympic competition, even celebrated with 8,000 calories-worth of junk food from the village McDonald’s, posting on Instagram that “now it’s time to eat some junk food after months of eating clean!”

But this post isn’t about Olympians who blow off steam with a few burgers, but about surprising places we’ve found fast food. Besides Olympic Village, here are four more locations where you might not have expected to find burgers, fries, or burritos.

Children’s hospitals

Parents take their sick kids to children’s hospitals for treatment and care that is tailor-made for our littlest and most vulnerable. Well, according to a 2006 study, nearly one in three (!) children’s hospitals in the United States offer fast food on site—the regular consumption of which has been shown to make us sicker. Even more shocking, the presence of fast food restaurants in medical centers appears to make people think the food is better for you than it actually is. According to the same study, patients in hospitals with McDonald’s rated the chain’s food as healthier than patients staying in hospitals with no McDonald’s—and the former group also believed the restaurant supported the hospital financially.


The ability to eat fast food at 30,000 feet isn’t new; United Airlines has been serving the Golden Arches on its flights since 1992. But the practice is picking up steam, it seems, with carriers in Japan and Iceland also offering some popular junk food on select flights. In Japan, some travelers on JAL airlines can dine on KFC chicken while flying, as well as burgers from MOS—Japan’s answer to McDonald’s.


According to Corporate Accountability International, around 20 percent of public schools—mostly high schools—sell branded fast food in the cafeteria. And if there isn’t fast food in the school lunch line, there’s certainly some near it; many older students can go off campus for lunch, and fast-food joints have been popping up near schools for years.


The birthplace of gourmet has gone shockingly low-brow in recent years. The French, known for their commitment to the long, slow, home-cooked meal, admitted in 2013 that they now spend more of their food dollar—54 percent—at fast-food chains than restaurants offering table service. Spending at chains went up an incredible 14 percent in one year!

Clearly, despite scientific evidence that shows regularly eating burgers, fries, pizzas, and fried chicken can be dangerous to your health, no part of society is safe from the tentacles of fast food chains.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

This article is related to:

Food News, Living

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Steve Holt

Steve Holt's stories about food, nutrition and food politics are found at Civil Eats,, Boston Magazine, and elsewhere. He's been featured in the Best Food Writing anthology. Follow his tweets and Instagrams @thebostonwriter.


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