More than 500 people turned out to Belmont Heights Baptist Church on Monday night to hear from Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and co-producer of Food, Inc. Schlosser’s visit was part of Belmont’s ongoing campus-wide academic theme for 2009-10, “A Paradise Lost.”
Schlosser opened the evening by declaring, “What I’m going to say isn’t intended to answer questions as much as to provoke them… I want you to think of sustainability in terms of practices each of us employs in our daily lives. It doesn’t just apply to the land or our environment but also to ourselves.”
He then proceeded to discuss the unhealthy patterns related to food production and consumption, patterns that began in the past few decades with the rise of fast food chains. In particular, he focused on the concepts of uniformity, conformity, speed and efficiency that these chains practice with the food they make and sell, adding that since the fast food inception the incidence rates of obesity, food borne illness and food poisoning have been on the rise.
Illustrating the dangers behind such production entities as factory farms and genetically-modified corn, he noted, “There’s been more change in our food in the past 40 years than in the previous 40,000… Knowledge is power, and that’s why these companies don’t want you to have it. The aim of my work isn’t to tell people what to do, but to make people think about their choices.”
As an investigative journalist, Schlosser tries to give a voice to people at the margins of society. His aim is to shed light on worlds that are too often hidden. Schlosser’s first book, Fast Food Nation (2001), helped start a revolution in how Americans think about what they eat. It has been translated into more than 20 languages and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for two years. Schlosser also served as an executive producer and co-wrote the feature film Fast Food Nation (2006), and he was a co-producer of the award-winning documentary, Food, Inc., a film about how complicated and compromised the once simple process of growing crops and raising livestock has become.