McDonald’s opened in Calaveras County last month, the first McDonalds in this 1, 020-square-mile county that spreads out along the foothills and western slope of the Sierra Nevada.
More precisely, McDonald’s opened in Angels Camp, the only incorporated city in Calaveras County.
Angels Camp has a population of about 3,000. It also has a Taco Bell, Burger King and KFC (all within walking distance of the local high school).
And now Angels Camp has a McDonald’s.
When I was in sixth grade – more than half a century ago – the first McDonald’s came to my hometown, Kalamazoo, Michigan. And it was a really big deal. People drove from all over to get a ten-cent hamburger from the first fast food joint any of us had ever seen.
Now, here in Angels Camp, 52 years later and more than half a continent west, I saw the same thing when this McDonald’s opened its doors. Folks drove in from all over the county for burgers and fries.
For months local people had been talking excitedly about McDonald’s bringing jobs to town. Our unemployment rate here is high. And in some of the more isolated communities, it ranges above 20 percent. For a county whose economic engine ran on construction, logging and real estate, the Great Recession feels very much like a Great Depression.
I checked out the hiring website at McDonald’s and learned that most of the jobs are minimum wage. Not enough to support a person let alone a family.
But I suspect that whoever gets hired to work there will be grateful for the paycheck, no matter how small.
I wonder who’s going to spend their money at McDonald’s?
Sweetheart Al suspects the McDonald’s will simply pull customers away from the other fast food joints, rather than actually attracting new fast food eaters.
He’s probably right.
People in this county are hungry but they don’t have much to spend on restaurants, even the fast food variety.
The county food bank saw a 29 percent increase in families needing food last July. The food bank manager estimates this year’s overall increase will average about 15 percent.
About 30 people from the little community of Paloma have planted a community garden to give food bank recipients fresh, organic produce.
Every week, community garden volunteers, pick what’s ripe and take it to the food bank. They’ve brought hundreds of pounds of veggies, from tomatoes and beans to peppers and squash.
The food bank distributes the produce, along with recipes suggesting ways to use the vegetables.
The response to fresh-from-the-garden goods has been so positive, that the food bank and local Rotary clubs are starting a garden on food bank property.
Because of caring Paloma neighbors and their desire to share nutritionally-rich produce with the needy, families and individuals in need can enjoy organic fresh vegetables. And soon they’ll be able to grow their own.
I don’t know about you, but to me that’s a lot more exciting than another fast food place in town.