Saturday, August 2, 2008

Super Size Me: Back for Seconds


I could watch Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me" every week - and doing so would probably be the best weight loss program I could put myself on. At moments, it's as much a horror film as it is a comedic documentary.

But, I think there's officially enough material out there for Morgan to release a sequel. Reports boast that the obesity epidemic in America has 'plateaued', but with the economy making fresh produce and organic food even pricier, and fast food still more readily available than Amy Winehouse's bottle opener, I don't think we're going to see a tidal shift any time soon.

So, if fast food is flourishing as the cornerstone of the American food pyramid, what happens next? Well, I hate to sound like Neal Boortz, but apparently, the government steps in. Southern L.A. has just put a ban on the addition of any new fast food chains to their neighborhoods for at least one year. This is an effort to try and lure healthier restaurants and eateries to the area, while keeping the White Castles and golden arches at bay.

Claiming a dearth of quality food in the area, they say that young people, in particular, have little choice but to turn to Jack in the Box for three squares. Of course, the fast food industry is crying foul, saying "We serve many healthy options."

Now, I trust 'Big Food' about as much as I do 'Big Oil'. Thinking our best nutritional interests take priority over shareholders' profits is like thinking The Eagles still go on tour because they 'owe it to their fans'.

However, I'm not sure federal regulation is the slippery slope we should be climbing to rectify the situation. While I'm all for the government stepping in to curb public schools (or as the right calls them, 'government schools') from serving nothing but colas, french fries, and pizza slices to kids, the fact is, the fast food places are on the free market, and if the fat-ass public wants 'em, it's our funeral.

Of course, when fresh produce is outrageously priced, but you can get a Hardee's Triple Stack Arterial Death Burger for $1.49, most folks are gonna go for the meal/cardiac on a bun rather than get out the debit card to piece together something nutritious.

We saw this in Puerto Rico. Fresh veggies and fruit are scarce there, save the few items they grow locally (bananas and mangoes are plentiful), but in San Juan, it resembles Times Square, with fast food at every juncture. Of course, in Vieques you could buy a freshly cooked chicken right on the sidewalk, but I always got the suspicion they were just selling the loser of the previous night's cock fight, and really, who wants to eat the Apollo Creed of poultry?

In a perfect world, every neighborhood would have a Farmer's Market, or at least a bodega, but that's economically unfeasible, so instead, we have to resort to things like limiting the big burger establishments from overtaking neighborhoods.

This quandary continues to intrigue me, so I hope Mr. Spurlock is listening. Apparently, "Super Size Me" had such an influence on the industry that McDonalds actually did away with "Super Size" meals as a result of his film. A sequel might just stir the soup a bit more.

Soup...now, there's a good idea!

4 comments:

stacey said...

great post, tommy. so, this got me thinking...is there not a "fast" food establishment that serves ONLY healthy foods? i know there's not one here, but maybe in CA?

are we missing an opportunity to milk this idea and become stupid rich while healing the world???!!!

Vicki said...

Tommy... It might have been LA. that was thinking about not letting anyone "obese" into the restaurants at all. That was kind of crazy to me when I read that but it was awhile ago that I did and not sure what ever happened with it. The thing is this... grocery store food is getting to be so damn high it is crazy. I try as hard as I can to get my family eating better. But fruit is so over the top expensive, that people tend to go for the canned stuff (that is filled with so much sugar it is crazy) I mean when a small,well for me and my family, seedless watermelon is almost 8 bucks that is crazy. Last year you could get 2 of them for that price. For arguments sake we could plant a garden, BUT we have doen that before and for my family we would have to have my entire back yard nothing but a garden to produce enough to feed them. Then when you have a husband like mine, who eats fairly healthy with what I cook, that thinks he has to have 2 Little Debbie snacks after it. Ok so all the good I just did for him was undone in 5 seconds flat as he shoved those down his throat. And I also think we as people tend to go for the easier stuff. Like cheese that is already shredded as opposed to doing it ourself and so on. So places like McD's survive because it is fast, cheaper than the healthier side of things and so forth. A very sad fact indeed.

Also I know you mentioned schools. How many schools these days have moved Pizza Hut, McD's and others into there schools to feed the kids. Now mind you those are the high schools that have done that but to me that is insane. A kid is not going to go for the healthier side of things. They are going start for the JUNK!!! And even when you take a salad. Way healthy in and of itself UNTIL you throw all that dressing on it and then the healthy went to hell fast!

This same thing could be said about the greed and the narsasitic (I have no clue how to spell it) world of teens and kids that we all have. Instead of saving for a trip or whatever everyone wants it NOW!!! And TV commercials push it on you. CC companies are going to be hurting as bad as the mortgage people are soon. Because people are going under and fast. We walked away from CC's long ago. My motto is "If we can't pay for it in cash (debit card) then we don't need it" And kids these days all think we owe them something. We had them therefore we OWE them. Some of these kids think everything revolves around them and they can all do what the hell they want when they want. This world to me is getting to be a sad place to live and to even sit back and watch.

Anyway that is my two cent thoughts !!

Tommy said...

I think once you venture into truly healthier options, you're not considered 'fast food', but are in the Chipotle/Doc Green's category.

As for pure 'fast food', I think Subway is the closest to healthy, and even they have plenty of fat-laden options, but at least they're options and not the main thrust of the menu.

Yes, we should get rich and heal the world. Let's work up a mission statement. And we'll also need lawyers, guns, and money...

David Silverman said...

Thanks Tommy!

Love love love "Super Size Me!"

Spurlock's film never ceases to scare the McCrap out of me too! Since seeing it, my consumption of burgers and fries has dropped to almost nil. This is a direct causal relationship. What a powerful movie!

I HIGHLY recommend the book that inspired Mr. Spurlock: "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser (I haven't seen the movie but can vouch for the book). Though "FFN" is getting a little out-dated, the book is a fascinating look at the fast-food industry and how it changed agriculture. I literally think of certain passages I read each time I am considering McBackSliding on my McDiet.

As for government intervention, I think attempting to stop the expansion of fast-food restaurants is indeed a slippery slope. As long as fast-food is legal, I don't see they have the right. It is a well-intentioned and wrong-headed attempt to curb obesity. It will have no effect at all on the DEMAND for fast-food, which is central to the epidemic. The effect this will have in LA is to make the fast-food restaurants that are already established there more profitable.

Educating people in the way Morgan Spurlock and Eric Schlosser have is the answer (though it is SLOW).

Yes, the industry has made positive changes, but those changes are made as a result of consumer DEMAND.

"Big Food" is not going to offer healthier choices because they were shamed by Spurlock/Schlosser. They make these changes when they see the demand rise and potential profit on the horizon.

If we continue to educate people, we will continue to see the demand for healthy food rise which will dictate the direction the market will have to go. Like big oil, these companies don't see a reason to change anything as long as we're lining up to the trough.