Katelyn Kelly

Annotation #9, Obesity in America


Word Count: 1470

Title: Fast Food, Fat Profits: Obesity in America

Director: Josh Rushing

Release Year: 2010
What is the central argument or narrative of the film?
The central narrative of the film is that as a nation, we are more susceptible to purchasing the cheap, processed and ultimately less healthy food products as opposed to their healthy alternatives. Whether it be at a convenience store, or in schools, we, as a nation, are constantly looking for the cheaper product. The film argues that we grow up with a sense of saving money our parents have given us and in order to make it last, especially in the lower classes, we look to purchase the cheapest option, not necessarily the healthiest. The film also looks into current solutions such as a program in a New York school where hip hop music is being used as a medium to teach children about healthier food choices.
How is the argument or narrative made and sustained? How much scientific information is provided, for example? Does the film have emotional appeal?
The film opens in a recovering town from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, where a festival is held every year. The director goes around from stand to stand, all of which are serving huge portions of fried or fatty foods. When he asks them why they’re selling these instead of a healthier alternative, their answer is pretty much the same across the board: the cheap stuff sells, and they need to make money. The director then starts asking the local populace attending the fair why they consume the cheaper, fried, and obviously unhealthy choices for food. They respond with the answer to the vendors: the food is cheap, and tastes good, and they don’t have a lot of money to go spending, especially right after a disaster such as a hurricane. The film then transitions to everyday people who tend to have access to less money or people who seem to constantly be in a rush and how their spending habits are similar to the people in the introduction, and ultimately how this is becoming an epidemic, particularly with children.
The film has further emotional appeal in that the director interviews people off the streets of New York City, where everything is on the go and about getting from A to B in the quickest time possible. It was therefore advantageous for the director to interview these people as they are looking to get fast food to keep up with the pace of their day. The director also appeals to the emotions by showing how this affects the generation that parents and school systems are responsible for feeding—children. One of the major components of the film focused on how the school system and how parents are failing their children, specifically within New York City. With the multiple interviewees, the director unearths a trend where children are given a handful of cash and rather than go to a grocery store, so they say, it’s easier and more convenient to go to a corner store or a McDonald’s and get the cheaper option so they have money saved for a future purchase.
What sustainability problems does the film draw out? Political? Legal? Economic? Technological? Media and Informational? Organizational? Educational? Behavioral? Cultural? Ecological?
This film draws out mainly behavioral and cultural sustainability problems by showing the bad habits of people with access to healthier foods but not necessarily the money. As a culture we have made available the cheaper, processed and less healthy foods by purchasing more of those cheaper foods over the healthier alternative. In all of the interviews with the people of New York City, they all say it’s faster and more thrifty to go to a corner store or fast food restaurant for a quick meal rather than go to a grocery store and getting the healthier but more expensive alternative. They all acknowledge that the healthy choice is available but would rather spare the extra money and get a quick fix.
Educationally, the film highlights a program that is being funded by doctors that utilizes hip hop as a tool for learning. While this is not a sustainability problem, it demonstrates how education can be used for good with children and instilling good and informed decisions, some as simple as making a healthy choice in the school food line. If these doctors can use such a culturally influential tool like music to help children make informed decisions about food, then perhaps the same technique could be used regarding other issues, such as recycling, making decisions about technology use, etc.
What parts of the film did you find most persuasive and compelling? Why?
The parts of the film that I was most intrigued by were people’s general lack of self-control. In both Louisiana and New York, people recognized what they were choosing to eat was terrible for them, but because they had access to it and because it tasted better, they chose the unhealthier food. This is intriguing to me because it sounds like people are literally choosing to lead an unhealthy life. By changing one aspect of their life they could easily have an alternatively healthier life, which sounds so simple but they don’t take that option because it requires a little more of an investment and may require some assembly.
What parts of the film were you not compelled or convinced by? Why?
The only part of the film I was disappointed with was a lack of representation from both sides, in other words, when the film makers went to the fair in Louisiana, it made it appear as if there was only fried food available because it was the only thing that sold, and people demanded food that was big and fried but there could have easily been someone who turned down the large portions of fried food or someone who could have brought a different food. This made it seems as if the only option available is for people to eat these foods.
What audiences does the film best address? Why?
The film best addresses the average consumer in America that has the option of what type of food they’re going to eat or give to their families. The film gives testimonies of average people that have repeatedly made the wrong decision despite having both options available and the health problems that they have encountered due to those choices. It also gives parents and teachers a good idea of what educational tools and resources are available to them regarding children and influencing them to make good decisions with food. Hopefully with this awareness the average consumer who watches this film and hears these testimonies will have a little more drive to make the healthier decision rather than take the easy and cheaper way out.
What could have been added to this film to enhance its environmental educational value?
The film incorporated an excellent resource for parents and teachers in regard to children, however the environmental educational value for adults and teens by having perhaps some kind of survivor or life changing story of a person or people that turned around their or their families lives with healthier choices, or resources to help adults make those healthier decisions and how much those healthier decisions will actually help with a person’s lifestyle.
What kinds of action and points of intervention are suggested by the film? If the film itself does not suggest corrective action, describe actions that you can imagine being effective.
Again, the only point of intervention offered by the film is the program funded by doctors using music to help educate children on a healthier option regarding food. This is a great program that reminded me of D.A.R.E. in elementary school but regarding a lifestyle choice that has just as much of an impact as drugs and alcohol.
What additional information has this film compelled you to seek out? (Provide at least two supporting references.)
This film really drove home how much our choices are affecting our children and younger generations more than or just as much as it is affecting the older and adult generations. I decided to look more into what exactly goes into school meals and just how much this epidemic is affecting the children of the United States. When I was looking through articles, I found something that kind of disturbed me—an obesity risk calculator for children based on the parents’ BMIs and the “maternal experience” in the household.
Another interesting thing I found on the USDA website was their “Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value,” the only thing listed is candy (and soda) but no foods high in fat or calories, or foods that are so processed that they no longer contain nutritional value, that are provided by the school, which seems a little one-sided.