Research shows that “The roughly 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum wage earners in the United States. The only Americans who consistently earn a lower hourly wage are migrant farm workers,” (Schlosser, 2004, p 6). Food companies exploit low income communities both in terms of selling unhealthy foods to them, and through providing poor working conditions for the community in general. Currently, most efforts being taken against fast foods influences have been within different environments. Yet, there are government sponsored programs, like Lets Move, which have had success providing funding for such communities to help make healthier options more available.
Moreover, the sheer costs of fast foods are a major problem which deserves government attention. Obesity and heart disease are one of the primary negative results of fast food. These diseases are costing billions annually to our nations federal health resources. Research shows that $238 billion a year is spent on healthcare related to conditions of obesity (Schlosser, 2004). Thus, “The annual cost of obesity alone is not twice as large as the fast food industrys total revenues,” (Schlosser, 2004, p 261). Possible solutions including looking to share those costs with the company who help influence them in the first place. California legislatures are currently trying to pass a tax on soda drinks, AB 669. This is “targeting the obesity epidemic with a tax that would slap a penny-an-ounce levy on drinks sweetened with sugar or corn syrup,” (Lazarus, 2011, p 1). Taxing junk food is one method of government intervention that could prove lucrative, similarly to the way cigarettes and alcohol are taxed. It is a way to help pay for the health epidemic the fast food is essentially causing in the United States. Also, to provide funds for programs targeting reducing obesity in children through promoting healthier eating and more active lifestyles.
Opposing View and Response
However, there are those who oppose government action. One oppositional view places importance on personal choice. Republicans have aligned themselves with the food companies in opposing government intervention (Nestle, 2011).
Many are still “vigorously defending junk food, lamenting the passage of the food and safety bill, and decrying all efforts to address our obesity epidemic,” (Nestle, 2011, p 1). There are those who believe that the government “doesnt have the right to protect us from ourselves,” (Lazarus, 2004, p 1). This becomes problematic when one looks at one of the most vulnerable demographics in question — children. Children are not considered adults, and legally are not seen as being capable to make their own choices. Thus, government action is needed within younger demographics, because the freedom of choice argument is essentially invalid. Currently, many major fast food companies have adopted healthier alternatives to put on their menus. However very limited, and looks like a shallow attempt to put a band aid on a mortal wound. Additionally, the same companies which claim to be providing alternatives are also increasing the level of their exploitive advertising.
It is clear that despite opposition, the government needs to help stand in and curb the growing problem. Obesity is only getting worse, and the action of the government can help save millions from suffering unnecessarily. As tensions continue to rise, only time will tell what the future has in store.
American Alliance for Health. (2002). Texas restricts junk food sales in schools. The Journal of Physical Education, 73(6), 18-19.
Garcia, Robert, Flores, Erica S., & Chang, Sophia Mei-ling. (2004). Thirteenth annual symposium on contemporary urban challenges: Urban equity. Fordham University School of Law. Fordham Urban Law Journal. (31), 1267.
Jacobson, Michael F. (2007). As the junk food world turns. Nutritional Action Healthletter. 34(5),2-3.
Nestle, Marion. (2011). Culture wars: How junk food and obesity became politicized. The Atlantic. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/12/culture-wars-how-junk-food-and-obesity-became-politicized/67841/
Lazarus, David. (2011). Tax junk food: Fight obesity one penny at a time. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2011 from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/25/business/la-fi-lazarus-20110225
Lets Move. (2011). Programs and resources. About Lets Move. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from http://www.letsmove.gov/programsresources.php