Spinning Fast-food Statistics

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 06, 2008
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To prove that government is looking over your shoulder, the U.S. Census just released this information:

An average family of four in Hawaii spent an average of $609 per person on fast food, compared with just $263 in Vermont, where fast food is least popular.

On the surface, this is the typical kind of statistical spin media will use to sell their product.

In fact, the census figures prove much. To begin with, the just-released figures are for the year 2000 and have little relevance to 2007.

The insinuation of the press release is that eating at fast-food restaurants is either harmful to your health or a sign of stupidity, or both. Using statistics to lie is an art form and something consumers should learn to see through.

Times are changing and everyone is interested in any product that is faster, smaller and cheaper. Not only with hamburgers, but computers and cell phones, too. Any of these products are harmful to your health if not used in moderation.

To say in a headline that Hawaii leads the nation in the consumption of “fast food” is misleading.

It is probably accurate to say we lead the nation in taxes and gas prices, but there is a good reason for that, although no one ever makes an effort to explain why the cost of living is so high in Hawaii and why the gas prices seem to be listening to a different drummer.

We might as well admit it: The fast-food industry in Hawaii is a very important part of our economy.

They also are wonderful corporate citizens and provide a lot of employment opportunities for every segment of the community. They easily employ more physically challenged people, senior citizens and young people than any other industry in Hawaii, not to mention all of the generous donations to local charities. Our fast food industry’s civic virtue is unimpeachable.

Let’s face it, Hawaii is in a hurry to go the beach, go shopping, camping and watch their children participate in school activities. Takeout plate lunches, lunch wagons bringing food to job sites - you name it - Hawaii is on the move.

One last thing about lying with statistics. There’s the issue about cost when it comes to comparing Vermont with Hawaii. I’m not sure who’s interested in how many hamburgers the people in Vermont buy; however, the cost of producing a hamburger is a lot cheaper there than producing one in Hawaii. The same is true for pizza.

The cost of living in Vermont is so much lower than Hawaii that you could probably get twice as many hamburgers for half the money.

The point is, the census figures, if reported correctly, were about the cost of living in Hawaii compared to Vermont. It does not mean there is something wrong with our fast-food industry or that the residents of Vermont are more health-conscious or eat better than we do.

Simply put, support your favorite fast-food restaurant. It is doing wonderful things for Hawaii’s people.

It’s not stupid to eat a slice of pizza or a hamburger once in awhile when you are on the run.

It’s much more convenient than waiting to be served in a swanky restaurant.

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