Over the last few months I’ve talked about the link between fast food and obesity, chronic hunger and high food prices, and empathy and school meals. But over this next week, I’d like to start a new blog series: 7 Reasons why Fast Food causes starvation.
Fast food—words which put together should sound like a high school dare, and not a $200 billion industry–is rapidly spreading across the globe. The average American spends $1 per day on it. It’s available in almost every democratic country. But readily available food, which seems to appear out of thin air; as if it was just waiting to please us, has a down side: it’s been shown to be a major cause of obesity around the world. Yeah, really. Apparently, science has recently shown that you can’t keep eating until you can’t eat anymore. I was just as shocked as anyone else to hear that the Double Cheeseburger with Bacon, a large fries, and a 32 oz soda, was not healthy for me. Apparently, even as far away as Saudi Arabia, scientists are now figuring out that a bucket of Fried Chicken washed down with a couple of 32oz milk shakes, covered in chocolate, and interspersed with more types of chocolate, are not part of a healthy balanced diet. Shocking, I know. Scientists were even capable of overcoming the difficulty of analyzing the effects of fast food in a country which doesn’t allow soccer moms to use the drive-through (It’s illegal for women to drive in that country, my guess is that men think they’ll leave the country; why else would women stay in a country which beheaded a woman for being accused of sorcery in December? If you don’t think this digression applies to fast food, process this: Billions (not millions) of gallons of Saudi Oil are used to make fast food every year; caring about women’s rights in a country which doesn’t accept them, creates some political tension, and gets in the way of our oil supply which provides us with our Chicken Nuggets).
At this point, I think it should be obvious that this blog series is going to have a special tone. So let me say this:
1: I don’t expect anyone under the age of 14 to read this article. In fact, I’m not friends with anyone under the age of 21; that would be creepy—so I’m going to assume anyone reading this is a literate adult.
2: No adult with any common sense thinks that potatoes, deep fried in fat, covered in salt, and then served in a box the size of a person’s head, offers healthy benefits. All of us know that America is getting heavier, and all of us know it has to do with the unhealthy stuff we cram into our faces. Stating the obvious is a waste of your time. We know fast food causes obesity. What we don’t know is that it also causes starvation.
That’s why this week I’m going to offer 7 reasons why Fast Food causes starvation.
Reason #1: Fast Food wastes food fast.
Each year, millions of children suffer long-term damage from not receiving enough calories during the first two years of their lives. In Swaziland, little baby Matilda needs about a 1,000 calories for the first 1,000 days of her life. If she doesn’t get them, she suffers long-term damage. Malnourished at such a young age, she will never fully recover, and will suffer from stunting (being too small), and an immune system so bad that she becomes susceptible to dying from preventable illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria.
So what does Matilda’s problem have to do with fast food?
Fast food can solve Matilda’s problem. The US Food supply chain provides an average of 3,900 calories to Americans every day, and we only need around 2,800 calories in order to be healthy. Some of us could go with less, some could use a few more; it all depends on how many calories we expend, but on average, 2,800 is just right. In order to solve Matilda’s problem, all we would need to do is give her what we don’t want or need. What else are we going to do with 1,100 calories of food if we don’t want it? Throw it away? Yes. In fact, as a country, we would rather throw it away than give it to Matilda. That’s a bold claim, which makes this a good time for some facts.
The USDA estimates that of the 3,900 calories we produce per person, 1,100 of these calories are wasted. That’s the conservative estimate. Another study shows that it’s closer to 50%. The worst culprits for wasted calories are small fast-food chains which throw away up to 50% of food every day. According to the USDA study, we throw away about 263 million pounds of food per year. Actually, that’s not true. I made that statistic up from thin air. The real truth is that we throw away 263 million pounds of food per day. Every single day! Every year we throw away enough food to feed all 200 million people suffering from starvation on the continent of Africa.
1 in 7 people on the planet suffer from chronic hunger, while 1 in 7 suffer from being overweight or being obese. Both forms of malnourishment have health problems. Our natural instinct is not want to see them as similar, because they clearly don’t look similar. We want to frame each one as its own category, and as very separate from the other one. We think that hunger is caused by famine, war, drought, failed crops, and poor government policies, while obesity is caused by people being unwilling to stop eating too much, but both of these conceptions of hunger and obesity are wrong. They are dead wrong. So wrong, in fact, that to conceive of them in this manner, allows 30,000 people to die from starvation every day and perpetuates an impossibility for Americans to take full responsibility for their failed health which is being caused by systems beyond their control. Behavioral economics shows that the causes of obesity and hunger are byproducts of a system beyond the control of individuals as rational decision makers, so how come our solutions to hunger and obesity are so individualistic and poorly funded?
Here is one reason of many.
Fast food is a 70 year old system of food production—in the 200,000 year old history of human food production and distribution—that is so brand new and large, that we are suffering from a shock and awe campaign which is killing thousands of us on a daily basis. We don’t see it, because companies who benefit from it don’t want us to see it. This isn’t a conspiracy theory; it’s a discussion of a marketing plan. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent through commercials, government lobbying, promotional materials, nutritionist buyoffs, and marketing campaigns which target children and minorities, to make sure that we don’t begin to really connect the dots at an instinctive level that makes us a bit queasy at the idea of eating fast food. As if pink slime isn’t disgusting enough already, trying eating it while knowing that its production, distribution, and consumption is destroying the planet and harming billions of people. That takes disgusting to a whole new level.
This is one of seven reasons, why the next stage of advocacy, has advocates step up to the next level by giving up fast food for one year after they complete 25 days of eating only rice and beans. Check out my post tomorrow to read about reason #2 of why Fast Food causes starvation.