Dede's Grene Scene: Fed Up by Dede Tabak, February 18 2015, 0 Comments

Fed Up is a 2014 documentary made by director, writer and producer Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped). Since every movie needs a good villain, Fed Up has the sweetest one, sugar! The film focuses on our nation’s deadly obesity epidemic and the growing link between sugar consumption and our health crisis. Fed Up looks to do to the diet and exercise crisis what An Inconvenient Truth did for global warming (probably helps that both were produced by Laurie Lennard) and answer the present day puzzle: why, when we’re more obsessed with diet and exercise than ever before, is the nation's obesity rate higher than ever?

The film starts with the narrator, Katie Couric (also executive producer), speaking about how in her 35 years on TV she has reported countless stories on the rise of obesity among Americans, particularly children, but never paid attention to the reasons why, until recently. Our society has placed the blame on the individuals themselves. All you have to do is eat less and exercise more, right? Fed Up argues that what we’ve been told is healthy and nutritious has been misguided, and that it's not as crucial how much we eat, but what we're eating. The fault lies within the food industry's marketing of processed foods. Companies have answered the increasing demand for less fat, low calorie food options by pumping up the sugar content to add flavor. But this creates products that are not only unhealthy, but incredibly addictive. Some have compared sugar to cocaine. Now, 80% of the 600,000 food products we make in the United States have added sugar. “Eating nutritionally, given the America food environment, is becoming even more difficult for the vast majority of Americans.”

Fed Up personalizes the problem by weaving in individual stories of youngsters and their struggle with weight. Fifteen-year-old Brady weighs 215 pounds, 12-year-old Maggie weighs 212 pounds, and 13-year-old Wesley is close to 180 pounds and showing the warning signs of type 2 diabetes. Between a lack of education on proper nutrition and the infiltration of processed foods in school cafeterias, it’s no wonder that the teens are struggling to lose weight. Nowadays, high school cafeterias are a vast wasteland of the biggest fast food companies. Under the Reagan Administration, $1.46 billion was cut from school lunch programs, forcing most schools to find private cafeteria contracts. Now 80% of American schools have contracts with soft drink companies making schools more like a “7-11 with books.” Some improvements have been made recently. But when Soechtig points out that Senator Amy Klobuchar went so far to protect her state’s dominance on the frozen pizza market (the Minnesotan Schwan Food Company provides 70% of pizza to schools), that she pushed congress to classify pizza as a vegetable, it’s clear that we have a ways to go.

The film compares the strategies used by the food industry to that of Big Tobacco; particularly the aggressive marketing of their products to children, brainwashing them from an early age to crave junk food. The problem is a universal one, caused by the deep pockets of the food industry, which gain it the ability to lobby and minimize governmental regulation. As we export our food to other countries, the health crisis is rapidly becoming not just America's problem, but a global one. And the numbers aren’t looking good. Fed Up points out that the kids in the film will be the first generation that will have shorter lives than their parents. We used to consider Type 2 diabetes adult onset diabetes, but that’s just not the case anymore. In 1980, there were 0 cases of children having type 2 diabetes. In 2010, there were 50,000 cases. The food industry may be making money, but at what cost?

Fed Up asks viewers to take the Fed Up challenge—which is not to eat sugar for 10 days. You have to really take a look at what is in your food and this is the main argument for this film. Once you learn the truth about your food, you’ll be Fed Up!