‘Fast Food Nation’ author comes to campus

Teresa Sheffield

Eric Schlosser discusses eating trends in America

Investigative journalist and author Eric Schlosser came to UMKC last to talk about his book, Fast Food Nation.

Schlosser’s book was a two-year New York Times bestseller, and talks about the origins of fast food in the 1950’s in southern California, the manufacturing of fast food, its global popularity, and the questionable targeted marketing to people of color, those in poverty and to very young children.

Schlosser’s visit was a part of the fifth annual Social Justice Book and Lecture Program which showcases books that highlight social struggles and problems.

“This lecture is about more than fast food, it’s about low-income families who have few choices and the limited unhealthy food options available to them,” Kristi Ryujin UMKC Assistant Vice Chancellor, Diversity Initiatives said. “It also is about the unsafe, hazardous conditions to which food workers are exposed and the issue of fast food being marketed to the underprivileged and people of color.”

Schlosser specializes in authoring books that delve deep into topics that aren’t usually discussed. He’s written other books on marijuana, migrant workers, the American pornography industry, and is currently writing books on nuclear weapons and the American prison system.

Schlosser has also written two historical plays, co-wrote the screenplay of the movie version of Fast Food Nation and Food Inc., and was the executive producer for the film There Will Be Blood.

“It’s an honor that [Fast Food Nation] is being taught at a university like this, especially as a part of the social justice program,” Scholsser said.

In his approximately hour-long remarks, Schlosser spoke in-depth about book.

“When I wrote it, I had no idea anyone would want to read it,” he said. “Right here in the United States we have a deeply perverse relationship with food. The success of this system is based on our being ignorant of how it works.”

One of the main areas Schlosser focused on was his perceived corruption of the fast food industry. He compared it to the tobacco industry, and said that it has pervasively taken over our culture.

“This isn’t just about food, it’s about how companies are profiting at the expense of the public,” he said. “It’s an enormous profit and it’s hurting people.”

Schlosser also talked about the health effects that the culture of fast food has had on the United States. He said that outside of tobacco-related deaths, obesity is the top cause of preventable deaths, and is well on its way to overtaking smoking as the top killer.

Schlosser said the answer to this epidemic is government intervention and legislation, as well as educating the public on the hazards of fast food and letting them know what other options they have for a healthy lifestyle.

“Of course this can be changed, of course the system can be different,” Schlosser said. “I have seen astonishing changed in my lifetime, and I’m not that old.”

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