A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (educator, activist, world citizen)
I haven’t stepped into a McDonald’s in over ten years now, except once to solicit a donation for a charity auction (thankfully they said no). And I once worked at a McDonald’s. I don’t miss it all. For that matter, I have almost fully eliminated fast food from my life. The most I eat is a pizza now and then from a place that uses healthy ingredients (and ironically is anything but fast in their delivery) and Jimmy Johns (who while delivered super fast I would argue is not actually fast food).
Am I satisfied?
Absolutely. My whole being is satisfied by the balanced diet I eat. Don’t get me wrong, I do not deny myself anything. If I want potato chips, I eat them. If I want cake, I eat a piece. I learned early on in my life not to deny my body’s cravings, but have finally learned to control the actual intake, only eating enough to satisfy the need but not overdo it.
That aside, though, I am concerned by an article I read in the Tribune about McDonald’s adding a piece of fruit to each Happy Meal at the expense of the downsized french fries (York, 2011). Apparently, it is a move aimed at stopping childhood obesity. A little late and definitely not enough to put an end to the problem.
Do the people at McDonald’s really think that offering a piece of genetically engineered fruit that has been who knows where will do anything to prevent kids from becoming obese? How do they plan to be certain kids will actually eat the fruit: smother it in a sugary coating? Quite frankly, I think it is just a marketing ploy to make people think that McDonald’s actually gives a damn about its customers rather than the bottom line, a bottom line that is struggling in nearly every industry. Fast food is just another victim of the bad economy.
But more than that, fast food is also a victim of a society realizing that the McDonaldization factor regarding the efficiency, speed, and sameness of food served in places like McDonald’s is not necessarily good for one’s health. Sure, from a business perspective McDonalization and the increased global interconnectedness is a highly profitable corporate structure, one that McDonald’s introduced to the world so long ago it is as if it has always been a part of American existence (Ritzer, 2002).
But it hasn’t been.
There was actually a time long ago when people walked to their destinations, made their own food in their homes, and did not carry with them hundreds of extra pounds. Today, we rely on cars to take us everywhere, even if just down the block. There are people who have never even turned on a stove/oven, let alone actually prepared a meal from scratch. And the obesity epidemic in America is spreading to other nations. The fear of obesity is so great that in some places, like New Zealand, they will even deny a visa to a promising student because her BMI is too high.
I won’t deny that obesity is a major problem in society, a problem that has led to many other health issues. But we need more than the band-aid offered by McDonald’s, who is indeed a major contributor to the problem.
As Jamie Oliver pointed out in his food revolution, while we all need to take responsibility we also need to figure out where the problem stems from, and make changes, drastic changes. We need to overhaul school lunch menus, eliminating processed foods. We need to offer affordable, healthy, and tasty options at “fast food” places, since people will not stop going to them. We need to encourage and educate the masses on the importance of a balanced diet, beyond that stupid pyramid from times gone by. And most importantly, we need to make it fun and exciting to create new recipes and eat healthy.
My husband, among many others, often complains that vegetables just don’t taste good. I, of course disagree, but recognize that we live in a society where parents don’t always have control over what their kids eat and the consequence is a society of kids and adults that don’t know or like vegetables, let alone what is in the food they eat.
This is a problem, a major problem.
I am not saying that all people should like all things. But parents need to teach their kids about eating healthy from an early age, period! For instance, when I was young, due to a rare blood disorder I have, I was never told I had to eat this or that. I was only told I had to try everything three times before I dismiss it. Often, by the third try, it turns out I actually liked it, or at least could eat it.
I was never told I had eat all my vegetables, and yet I did. My mother instilled in me the knowledge of what was good for me, but didn’t force it upon me. Maybe we were just lucky because the doctor’s told her “just let her eat whatever she wants and she will get the iron she needs,” an attitude my mother passed on to my siblings as well. Of course, this was before the extreme inundation of processed foods, synthetically fortified foods, and genetically engineered hybrids. In saying this, I have to acknowledge that in some cases this isn’t necessarily bad. But as a general rule, food that leaves you hungry and craving more of the crap you just ate until it becomes an addiction is a major societal injury.
But we CAN heal!
We simply need a true and everlasting food revolution, one in which our society changes its outlook on food production and consumption. Only then can the wounds of unhealthy eating return to a state of well being.
Ritzer, George. 2002. McDonaldization, The Reader. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.
York, Emily Bryson. 2011. “Happy Meal to tilt at Obesity.” Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2011. Website: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0726-happy-meal-20110726,0,1581970.story