Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Eric Schlosser’s vision in “Fast Food Nation” is only of the negativity of fast food on the American culture and I must say that largely I agree. Fast food is a devastating factor of American culture and rarely a good influence.  The problems I see with fast food are many. First, fast food companies only pay enough wages to meet the basic minimum wage. Second, the jobs are transient and provide no benefits. Third, fast food has destroyed the American family.

The first problem with the fast food proliferation of the United States and the world is its impact on the economy. Though the companies pretend to offer a “value meal”, the reality is that they pay their own employees so little, that they would have to work for almost an hour to pay for just one meal. Given the fact that the average person needs three meals a day, the correlation is that it takes almost half of the average fast food worker’s pay just to meet their basic sustanance needs. That leaves just half a paycheck to provide themselves with clothing, shelter, and all the other basic needs, including health care and retirement since these are not included benefits for the fast food worker.

The second problem is that there is no motivation to stay in these jobs. I have a friend who lives in a city of about 30,000.  He works for various fast food entities about four months a year. He will work for one long enough to get a few paychecks and then quit, ever confident that the need for workers will mean he can easily get another job at a different fast food restaurant. He has no motivation to stay employed as the jobs are plentiful and usually pay the same whether one has been there a week or a year. There are no real advantages to staying employed.

Perhaps the most important critique I have of the fast food industry is that it has destroyed the American family. At first the statement seems overly melodramatic, but the reality is that before the advent of fast food, most families ate at least one meal together each day. That meal was a time of family communication and bonding, a time for shared experiences and shared nutrition. With fast food, often family members “just grab something” while out and about and no one meets at the dinner table anymore. The family becomes ever more fragmented and society suffers.

Though this is not one of the specific complaints that Schlosser lists in the sample reading, but it does echo his basic theory that fast food has helped to undermine the stability of the nation, both economically and healthfully. The mass production of food for the fast food markets has led to a uniformity of production in agriculture and an emphasis of quantity over quality. In addition, the unending quest to try to provide the buying public with a perceived value has led to the constant increase in size of fast food products. Portion sizes increase and so does the American waistline.

Schlosser’s premise is basically correct. The impact of the fast food industry on American culture cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Instead, it can be measured in a diminished economy, poor health and the destruction of the family dinner.