Posted by: beyonddinner | February 27, 2009

reactions to Fast Food Nation

My daughter, who is in 8th grade, recently had to read Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, for her health class. I’m so happy that they are reading books like this – though I’ve since learned that very few of the kids were able to finish it. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, so I snatched up her copy.

Boy, if I hadn’t sworn off fast food a few years ago, this book certainly would have done it for me!

The covers all aspects and impacts of the fast food industry on American culture, economics, farming, labor, globalization, health and more. The chapters that particularly affected me were those on the meatpacking industry and fast food workers. In these areas I’m still pretty ignorant and this was pretty eye-opening for how much companies get away with in the treatment of their workforce. It also reinforces that companies will try to get away with anything they can if left unchecked. You don’t have to go outside of our country to find some atrocious human rights incidents – there are so many right in the meatpacking industry, right under our noses.

The book encourages activism because one of his main points is that the system will not change unless consumers demand it. He gave a couple examples where the government is terribly tied up and completely unable to act in the best interests of the people – but if McDonalds gets some bad press, they can change their requirements on their suppliers and get conditions improved in a few weeks. This has happened with stopping the use of GMO potatoes and in mandating more meat safety precautions at the slaughterhouses.

So it comes down to action on the part of people. Consumers can affect the actions of corporations and citizens can affect the activities of the governments.



  1. Wow, your daughter must have a really great school. Partly, I’m jealous. My “health” class was in tenth grade and as I recall it was mostly a sex ed (scare tactics) sort of class.

    I wish more classes would have kids pick up progressive, non-fiction books like Fast Food Nation. Maybe more kids would be interested in learning/reading if they were given assignments like that. Non-fiction with a narrative is much more compelling and not as daunting as your everyday textbook.

    • She is in a really great school! We live in Brookline, Massachusetts and the public schools are top notch. I remember health class just like you!

  2. P.S. What did your daughter and her 8th grade class think of the book?

    • I can’t speak for the rest of the class, but I asked my daughter what stuck with her. She said that she didn’t realize how sneaky the companies are with advertising and how they flavor the food. She was also sad about the animals are treated. Also, we talked about how workers are treated and recalled the scene from Napoleon Dynamite when he works on a chicken farm and gets paid in change and is fed raw eggs for lunch. We had already weaned her off of most fast food already so it didn’t change her eating habits much. I have to say she is a good eater at home – she’ll eat whatever we serve and will even have more vegetables sometimes. She does have typical teenager habits where with a few spare dollars she will go off and buy all kinds of awful snacks.

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