The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done a lot of good since its inception in 2000. Based on the belief that all human lives are equal, it has worked towards reducing existing inequities in the United States and the rest of the world. In underdeveloped countries, the foundation specifically focuses on providing medical support to communities where treatable and curable diseases cause numerous deaths each year. Additionally, they provide educational programs, relief to poverty stricken communities and, apparently, Big Macs. On August 14, Bill Gates revealed that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation owns 740,000 shares of McDonald’s.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems a little contradictory. Obesity is a rapidly spreading problem in the United States. According to the CDC, 32.9 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 74 were obese in 2004. 18.5 percent of children between 6 and 11 were as well, and the other age brackets were no different. This means that a huge percentage of our population has an increased risk of obesity-linked diseases and conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. In the face of all this obesity, McDonald’s is no help. Their menu is filled with calorie-loaded, fat-stuffed options. Their classic Big Mac has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat while a medium fries has 360 calories and 18 grams of fat. True, the company has attempted to add some lower-calorie choices. You can get a salad for only 90 to 150 calories, provided you don’t want chicken, dressing or croutons. But how many people actually walk into McDonald’s and order a bowl full of plain lettuce?
So then, how exactly can Bill Gates reconcile his foundation’s values with his McDonald’s shares? If the foundation truly believes that “all people deserve the chance to have healthy productive lives,” how do crispy chicken nuggets and a large fry play into that? It seems to me that the ownership of 740,000 shares of McDonald’s just doesn’t coincide with helping the people and certainly not with the foundation’s goals in general. After all, isn’t obesity one of those preventable and treatable diseases?