Our nation’s fast food obsession is disgusting

Junior Max Pellinger takes orders from the Dairy Queen drivethrough where he woks. Photo: Sophie Downey

Junior Max Pellinger takes orders from the Dairy Queen drivethrough where he woks. Photo: Sophie Downey

Sophie Downey, Staff writer

Fast food is part of the American lifestyle. Hamburgers and hotdogs are as American as baseball, and most of us can’t imagine life without them.

Junior Max Pellinger takes orders from the Dairy Queen drivethrough where he woks. Photo: Sophie Downey

However, it may be time to step back and think harder about what the country is being fed, especially when over one third of the adult population is obese, according to a 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on the prevalence of obesity in the U.S.

Poverty and obesity are linked. When people are constantly hungry, the body craves food that is heavy on fat, salt, and oil, which, however satisfying, leads to very bad consequences for the health of the individual.

Fighting hunger by loading up on calories leads to fat storage, which slows the metabolism. This causes a loss of muscle and an imbalance in blood sugar, which can eventually lead to diabetes.

Max Pellinger, a junior, works at Dairy Queen. “The actual food, besides ice cream, I would say it’s definitely more healthy than McDonald’s,” he says. “It’s not incredibly greasy, and we have chili. It’s not good for you, but it’s better than the normal fast food. It’s higher quality.”

However, Pellinger also says that the food sold at Dairy Queen is “pretty much all meat,” which may sound fine to most people. Meat is healthy, right? Not so much.

Meat consumption leads to an increased risk of heart disease and there is also a high rate of meat contamination. Not only that, but the majority of livestock today are raised in very unhealthy conditions. Farms where most fast food restaurants get their supplies are more concerned with quantity over quality, so the animals are raised in cramped, often dirty conditions, the perfect formula for unhealthy animals and bad, potentially contaminated meat. Consuming contaminated meat can cause E coli and other dangerous diseases.

This may not be so much of a problem for those who can afford to buy their food at places other than fast food restaurants, but unfortunately, this type of food is a staple in poorer areas of the country.

The poorest areas of the country are also the sickest, the most overweight, and have the lowest life expectancies. This is no coincidence: unhealthy food is significantly less expensive than healthier food, like vegetables, because the agriculture industry right now is responding to the demands for more and more products of lower quality, once again quantity over quality.

It’s a vicious cycle: poverty means eating more unhealthy food, which means a higher chance of diabetes, which means trips to the doctors, which means more money spent, which means less money for food.

A study done by the US Department of Agriculture found that the price of soft drinks increased by only 20% from 1985 to 2000, while the price of fruits and vegetables increased 118%.

“I don’t think there are cheap substitutes for fast food,” says Pellinger. “Because when you want fast food you just want to go through a drive through, and it’s kind of hard to do that when you’re looking for quality food.”

“I would prefer everyone to be able to eat more healthy,” he adds. “America is the fattest country, so that would maybe get that off of the board. I don’t really like how all of the McDonald’s food is soaked in grease, and has to be deep fried and that’s just how America is.”

Is there a solution? For individuals, it’s better to go local and to be conscious about what industries you are supporting when you are buying food. It’s better to turn toward organic food than to support restaurants like McDonald’s where their suppliers don’t focus on health or quality. When thinking about what food to buy, it is important to consider exactly what it is you are putting in your body.

Maybe if enough people who can afford it turn to healthier suppliers of food, the fast food industry can change as well.