Victoria health food eatery faces backlash for 'fat-shaming' Instagram post
The owner of a Victoria eatery is apologizing after he came under fire for what critics are calling a “fat-shaming” photo posted to the company’s Instagram account.
Fresh Coast Health Food Bar is facing a barrage of criticism after the company posted a now-deleted photo of a man sleeping in LAX airport.
“Get this guy some @freshcoastvic. We’re serious about providing healthy food to air travels [sic] across North America,” it wrote in an apparent criticism of the man’s weight. “If you feel the same then please ‘VOICE’ your thoughts in here.”
Reaction to the post was swift and brutal, with many calling out Fresh Coast for apparently posting the image without the man’s consent.
“This company openly and unabashedly took advantage of a man asleep at an airport, posting a photo of him on their Instagram and shaming him for his body,” one person wrote in a one-star review posted to the company’s Facebook page. “This is SO far beyond unacceptable that I’m not even sure I have the words for it.”
In addition to the pulled Instagram image, Fresh Coast’s Facebook page appeared to be taken down Tuesday after racking up dozens of angry comments.
The business has also lost some support from one of its suppliers.
In response to the controversy, Fatso, a Victoria-based company that sells peanut butter products through various retailers including Fresh Coast, said it was cutting ties with the eatery as a direct result.
“Fatso is 100% a body positive brand,” it wrote. “The name Fatso is meant to take the fear out of fat both in our diets and in the social context. I cannot on good conscience continue to be associated with a business that does not feel the same way.”
Fresh Coast owner Josh Kalef said he hopped on a plane right after posting the photo and didn’t see the online backlash until he landed about three hours later.
“The reason why I took the photo was I was frustrated with the offering at LAX for eating healthy food,” he told CTV News Tuesday. “The quote that followed the photo was not thought hard on, and it was a big mistake and I apologize.”
Kalef said he doesn’t know what he was thinking when he posted the photo, but regrets doing it.
“I take responsibility for my actions and it was totally inappropriate,” he said. “There’s just no place in our society for that, and the only thing I can do is just do better next time and think twice about not just the photo, but what I say about the photo.”
Dr. Mark Colgate, an economist at the University of Victoria, said it’s an example of how damage can be done quickly when it comes to social media platforms.
“Lots of small businesses in particular don’t have many protocols for using social media so you take a picture that is provocative, then it can cut both ways,” he said.
He suggested Kalef could have still got his point across without shaming an unsuspecting patron at the airport.
“Take a picture of three or four of the fast-food outlets that you’re unhappy with, don’t take a picture of a large person who’s sleeping and then tag your company,” he said. “All that looks like is you’re just promoting your company, you’re not frustrated at all.”
Kalef said he expects the post will impact not just his company’s bottom line, but his own reputation.
“I believe it will affect my business and not just financially, but me personally because I represent the brand,” he said. “I have to deal with the consequences if it’s financial, if it’s personal. But I guess there’s a lesson to be learned here and I have to answer the questions.”
Kalef has also reposted a video apologizing for the incident on his Instagram account.