Controversy continues to swirl around a recently opened McDonald’s in Rome, located just steps away from the Vatican: Now the fast-food giant is being accused of using the local homeless population for a cheap PR stunt, being more stingy than expected with its previously announced food-giveaway plan.
The mega-chain’s expansion into the area immediately surrounding Catholic church headquarters was opposed by local residents, including a group of cardinals, who argued that its arrival would only worsen the issue of modern shops invading the hallowed area. (Also on the docket: a Hard Rock Cafe that’s set to replace a religious bookstore.)
After opening a few weeks ago within eyeshot of the venerated St. Peter’s Square, last week it was revealed that the McDonald’s had agreed to feed the area homeless population, partnering with a local charity to donate cheeseburgers, apple slices, and bottled water — a move that it presumably hoped would stir up warm, fuzzy feelings amongst locals, even those with a strong distaste for McNuggets.
But per the Guardian, a community group called Safeguard the Borgo (the Borgo being the name of the district where the restaurant is located) has publicly decried McDonald’s charitable pursuits, calling the free food giveaway a “commercial transaction which cynically uses the homeless.”
“How long will the homeless be allowed to use the location and bathrooms of the fast-food restaurant [before they are treated] like the plague,” Safeguard the Borgo asked in a statement, adding, “Why doesn’t McDonald’s distribute its food waste to the homeless every day?” The restaurant has agreed to give away meals every Monday over the next six months, for a total of 1,000 free meals in all — an amount that seems like a drop in the bucket for a multinational corporation with more than 36,000 restaurants worldwide. McDonald’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, nearby resident Pope Francis has shown a strong commitment to feeding Rome’s homeless population: Last month he had breakfast with a group of homeless people on his 80th birthday, and last year he celebrated Mother Teresa’s sainthood with a pizza party for the homeless.
• McDonald’s Accused of Exploiting Homeless in Rome [The Guardian]
• Controversial Vatican McDonald’s Vows to Feed the Homeless [E]
• McDonald’s Opens Near the Vatican, Proving Nothing Is Sacred [E]
• All McDonald’s Coverage [E]