Fed UpDocumentary Exposes the Sickening Effects of America’s Food Industry
The documentary Fed Up exposes the food industry’s cover up of added sugar, attempts to pass pizza off as a vegetable and outright lies about the dangers of their products.
“If a foreign nation was causing our children to become obese—that’s going to affect their health and hurt their happiness, cause them to be depressed, have poor self-esteem—if a foreign nation were doing that to our children, we’d probably go to war.”
It’s a provocative thought. Fed Up, a documentary produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, is chock full of provocative thoughts on how we view food and exercise as a nation. And if you’re an American citizen concerned about your health and the health of your loved ones, you need to tune in.
What I particularly like about Fed Up is that nobody gets a pass. The food industry and government agencies, both on the right and left side of the aisle, are outed for their compliance in the destructive behaviors that have led our country down a sugar-laced, obesity-ridden disease spiral. For instance, Sarah Palin is called out for opposing New York City’s proposal to limit sodas to 16 ounces, making light of the idea that we should restrict the purchase of gigantic sodas. First Lady Michelle Obama is also slammed for her obvious shift from a nutrition-focused “Let’s Move” campaign to one that almost exclusively emphasizes exercise—as if somehow the root of the problem shifted from being the food we eat to our sedentary lifestyle, which any decent nutritionist will tell you is nuts.
You don’t have to believe in big government values to recognize that the food industry’s control over grocery stores is more than just the free market at work. From the government’s subsidies of crops that are being used largely for unhealthy food products, to the food industry’s lies and lobbying efforts to conceal the truth about how unhealthy its foods are, this is a problem that crosses all party lines. Just as tobacco companies did just a few short decades ago, big food companies are using their money and influence to ensure our supermarkets are stocked full of sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextran, sucanat and evaporated cane juice (all aliases for sugar—seriously, go watch the movie!). When we cause a ruckus over how fattening it all is, the food industry fights back with “low fat” options—which are just versions of their products with fewer total calories but increased amounts of added sugar.
It’s a problem, and no one is more adversely affected than our children.
As a mother, it’s a struggle I face every time I take my kid to the grocery store. The moment I cross the threshold between the outer rim of the store (meat, dairy and produce) and the middle “sugar section,” my daughter and I are bombarded with delicious, colorful choices. Cereals, breakfast pastries, chips, baked goods, candy—treats of all kinds. The crazy thing about the sugar section is how insanely cheap everything is. It might cost me $6 for one bunch of asparagus that’ll last my family one dinner, but we can get a whole 17 oz. bag of Oreos for $4. I’m fortunate to be able to afford the asparagus, but what about families who have to stretch that $6 a lot further?
The other big issue addressed in Fed Up is school lunches. When the government cut school funding in the 1980s, cooking in school cafeterias virtually disappeared. Instead, schools began serving frozen meals that were much cheaper to prepare. Nowadays, many of them actually serve fast food company products.
Lucy Komisar of the New York Times reported on the phenomenon back in 2011:
“Here’s one way it works. The Agriculture Department pays about $1 billion a year for commodities like fresh apples and sweet potatoes, chickens and turkeys. Schools get the food free; some cook it on site, but more and more pay processors to turn these healthy ingredients into fried chicken nuggets, fruit pastries, pizza and the like. Some $445 million worth of commodities are sent for processing each year, a nearly 50 percent increase since 2006.”
What’s the big deal about that? Well, these days, children are getting between 19 and 50 percent of their daily caloric intake at school. And more than one-third of our kids are now considered overweight or obese. You do the math.
Fed Up is an important film that exposes a big part of the health issues we have been experiencing as a country over the last several decades. It certainly isn’t a comprehensive study on all the health issues that plague America, but I don’t think it would be realistic to fit all of that information in one two-hour documentary. I believe the most important takeaway for us is the fact that we must be diligent in protecting our children’s health. I agree that as a whole, our country needs to do a better job informing people on the dangers of processed foods, added sugars and the like. But we can’t count on that to happen overnight. For now, we need to take on our children’s health as our personal responsibility. We need to do our own research, discover the truth about the foods our kids have access to and take action to ensure they will not be a generation whose life span is shorter than their parents’.