Salad Chain CEO Under Fire for Linking Coronavirus Deaths with Obesity

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez (3rd L) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) (L) eat lunch with co-founders of sweetgreen restaurant, Nicolas Jammet (R) and Jonathan Neman (2nd L), at one of sweetgreen's locations June 16, 2014 at Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. Secretary Perez and …
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Jonathan Neman, CEO and cofounder of the salad restaurant chain Sweetgreen, has been taking a beating on social media after linking obesity with coronavirus deaths.

In a now-deleted LinkedIn post last Tuesday, Neman suggested that “no vaccine nor mask” will save Americans if they continue to ignore their own personal health when it comes to issues like obesity.

“78% of hospitalizations due to COVID are Obese and Overweight people. Is there an underlying problem that perhaps we have not given enough attention to? Is there another way to think about how we tackle ‘healthcare’ by addressing the root cause?” he asked at the beginning of his post.

Neman then suggested three solutions as Americans wrestle with the fact that the coronavirus will be with us for many years to come, arguing that it should be an opportunity to better our own health:

1. COVID is here to stay for the foreseeable future. We cannot run away from it and no vaccine nor mask will save us (in full disclosure I am vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated). Our best bet is to learn how to best live with it and focus on overall health vs preventing infection.

2. We have been quick to put in place Mask and Vaccine Mandates but zero conversation on HEALTH MANDATES. All the while we have printed unlimited money to soften the blow the shutdowns have caused to our country.

3. What if we focused on the ROOT CAUSE and used this pandemic as a catalyst for creating a healthier future??

We clearly have no problem with government overreach on how we live our lives all in the name of “health”, however we are creating more problems than we are solving.

What if we made the food that is making us sick illegal? What if we taxed processed food and refined sugar to pay for the impact of the pandemic? What if we incentivized health?

Repairing our food system could save us $2 Trillion a year in direct costs ($1T in Healthcare, $1T in Environmental Impact).

Neman’s critics were swift in their condemnation, accusing him not only of fat-shaming but also of arrogantly using the pandemic to sell more salads, even though he made no mention of his company.

“There [are] systemic reasons why people don’t have access to safe, affordable, nutritious foods,” Maya Feller, a registered dietitian based in New York City told Today. “It is so narrow for us to think that if we have everybody eating a salad that all of a sudden, everything’s going to be OK.”

“It’s incredibly narrow to say that food is the way out,” she added.

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “obesity increases the risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness.”

“Among 148,494 U.S. adults with COVID-19, a nonlinear relationship was found between body mass index (BMI) and COVID-19 severity,” the agency said.

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