Supersizing Urban America

May 19, 2017
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Here’s a clip from a recent Huffington Post interview with Chin Jou, author of Supersizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food with Government Helpafter the jump.

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Your book begins with an excerpt from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation discussing the role the SBA has played in the fast-food industry’s expansion. Why did this capture your curiosity? Why did you feel this was a story worth telling?

I reread the Fast Food Nation excerpt in 2010. At the time, I was studying the history of obesity as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, so obesity was on my mind a lot. The Fast Food Nation excerpt, which was about the federal government’s loan guarantees to fast-food franchises, struck me because it occurred to me that such policies may have inadvertently and indirectly contributed to the obesity epidemic ― an epidemic that the government was in the process of trying to reduce with initiatives like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move.”

The notion that the government may have indirectly contributed to the obesity epidemic was not a new idea ― Michael Pollan is perhaps most famously associated with promulgating the idea that agricultural subsidies for crops like corn and soy contribute to the relatively low costs of processed foods made from these items. But before reading that excerpt, I hadn’t realized that the federal government also supported fast-food franchises through Small Business Administration loan guarantees.

What do you think is the most troubling aspect of the SBA’s fast-food support? Why might readers be alarmed by this?

A troubling aspect of the SBA’s fast-food support (and of the government’s various urban renewal initiatives since the 1960s) is that this contributed to the historical development of what has been called “food swamps,” or places that have a preponderance of fast food and junk food relative to affordable healthy foods. The development of these “food swamps” wasn’t inevitable.

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To read more about Supersizing Urban America, click here.

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