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Feb 12, 2010 09:17 AM

Hey MA, why all the fast food?

USDA just released a new mapping feature that illustrates regional eating habits, costs, local farming, etc.

Why do you think Massachusetts stands out so much from the rest of the northeast as a consumer of Fast Food?

Explanatory post at

and the USDA site is at . Warning- very glitchy unless using IE.

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      1. The difference between the extreme ends of the per-capita spending spectrum is about $1/day, or somewhere between one and two fast-food meals per week. I think you could probably ascribe that to our undergraduate population alone. Relatively high per-capita income is probably also a factor (though note that CT ranks higher on per-capita income but lower on fast-food spending).

        11 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Possibly also because Massachusetts has more, larger cities than other New England states. Fast food tends to congregate in urbanized areas where there are more restaurants in general. I couldn't access the data from Firefox but assume this in combination with the other factors just makes Massachusetts a unique state in the region (Connecticut also is heavily urbanized, but has no metropolitan areas as large as Boston).

          1. re: hckybg

            I was disappointed that the USDA map had county-by-county info on population, etc., but did NOT have county-specific details on that fast-food consumption data, because I was curious about how it might be distributed throughout the state.

            However, I did notice that MA was only barely in the top tier on per-capita consumption ($515 per capita) while NH and RI, for instance, are fairly close to the top of the middle tier ($476 and $491, respectively.) VT, however, is very low indeed, at only $348 - again, maybe way fewer fast-food restaurants in the first place?

            1. re: hckybg

              That was my thought too. We have more of it available here.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                Did I mention I had a Papa Gino's pizza recently (pepperoni)? First one in about 20 years. I did not feel good afterwards, emotionally or physically.


                1. re: C. Hamster

                  Although compared to some places I've lived, Boston has an odd distribution of fast-food places: there are many national fast-food chains that have one or maybe two outlets (Chick-Fil-A, Popeye's, Long John Silvers, Sonic, etc.) and others who aren't here at all -- closest Arby's to Boston I know of is out in Chicopee, which is way too far to go for a potato-cakes fix. And yet there's tons of other chain locations, like McDonalds or Burger King or Subway.

                  I say just bring me a Whataburger and be done with it.

                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    And there is literally a Dunkin Donuts every three blocks (even more true into the suburbs). I have never lived in a place where there were so many of one fast food chain, and such a high concentration of them.

                    Again, the data isn't terribly nuanced, but it would be useful to know if a coffee purchased at DD would count as a fast food purchase in the USDA study. That would spike the results, but that is also an urban phenomenon that correlates with the generally higher consumption of fast food in a metro area.

                    1. re: hckybg

                      And all it takes is a purchase of coffee to count.

                      1. re: hckybg

                        I used to work in Woburn - there was an article in the local paper when there was a permit application for the city's 8th DD. I am pretty sure this did not include the ones just over the lines with adjacent towns. My 9-mile commute took me past 6 of them, in Wilmington and Reading.

                      2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        I have no idea if it is still there now but there used to be an Arby's on VFW Parkway as recently as a few years ago.

                        1. re: Gordough

                          Gone now. Every time I saw it, all I could think of was Milhouse's line: "I'm so hungry, I could eat at Arby's!"


                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Confession: I like Arby's. From the roast beef, to the soft buns, to the "horsey sauce" and the Jamocha shakes. Not that I don't prefer Skampa or even Mike's Roast Beef, most of the time, but I still like Arby's.

                            The mapping feature is very cool. Thanks for showing us this!

                2. As Allstonian explains, it's because MA is about $20 more than other Southern NE states, but near the border of its category, as it were.

                  Moreover, the survey doesn't indicate the nature/mix of the FF purchases. In other words, it appears to say more than it does.