Sources for Further Study (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
American Scholar 70 (Spring, 2001): 152.
Booklist 97 (January 1, 2001): 887.
Christianity Today 45 (May 21, 2001): 91.
Commentary 111 (May, 2001): 78.
Library Journal 126 (February 9, 2001): 70.
The New York Times, January 30, 2001, p. B9.
The New York Times Book Review 106 (January 21, 2001): 13.
Publishers Weekly 247 (December 11, 2000): 74.
The Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2001, p. W10.
The Washington Post, March 28, 2001, p. F01.
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Although the setting moves from the East Coast to the West Coast (and many places in between), Schlosser anchors his story in Colorado, focusing on the environment around the city of Colorado Springs. He does this to personalize his findings to a specific town and its suburbs. While in Colorado Springs, Schlosser demonstrates how the food chains have affected the local youth, the local culture, and the economy of the small town.
However, Schlosser spends a good deal of time on the road, in places like Los Angeles, California, where the idea of fast food restaurants began. He also visits both small and large cattle ranches in the West. In the Midwest, the author explores large slaughterhouses. Later, he works his way into the pristine and otherworldly corporate headquarters of McDonald’s, located in Oak Brook, Illinois. On the East Coast, Schlosser investigates the huge business of crafting chemicals to replicate artificial flavors. In the final chapters, Schlosser reports from Greece, South Africa, Russia, Asia, and Europe, where fast food chains have been both extremely well received (in China people lined the streets waiting for a taste of a Big Mac) and protested against, even bombed.
But the true setting of this story is the fast food restaurants themselves, where Schlosser explores the food that is served and the people who work behind the counters.
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
1. Try to come up with as many benefits as you can of eating at fast food restaurants. Once you have created your list, try to determine if you think this outweighs the detriments to your health that Schlosser proposes.
2. Discuss which part of Fast Food Nation makes you want to make a change in your eating habits?
3. How does your community compare with Colorado Springs as Schlosser describes it?
4. Do you think the illegal immigrants who work in the meatpacking industry should have the right to better benefits?
5. Ask a group of your classmates to make a list at home of all the foods in their kitchens that have artificial flavors added to them. Ask them to bring the lists to school and share their findings. Does this make you think any differently about the foods you eat?
6. Besides the cost to people’s health, what is some of the harm fast food restaurants are causing the environment, the culture, or the economy, according to Schlosser?
(The entire section is 166 words.)
Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Ask some classmates to help you take a survey in your school cafeteria concerning how many times a week (or month) students eat at fast food restaurants. How many of them work at fast food restaurants, for how many hours, and at what hourly wage? Try to get your findings published in your school newspaper along with a brief summary (and your commentary) about Schlosser’s book.
2. Arrange an interview with a fast food restaurant manager. Let him or her know that you want to discuss the nutritional values of the food the restaurant serves. Ask about the ingredients that go into the milkshakes, the sugar content of the restaurant’s food, and the kind of fat the fries are cooked in? Then take that information and compare it to amounts that are suggested in order to maintain a healthy diet. Present your findings to your class.
3. Research the number of schools in your state that are serving food from fast food restaurants. How long have they been doing so? How much does this food cost in comparison to other cafeteria food? How popular is the food in comparison to other meals served there? Why did these schools decide to serve fast food? What types of advertising is seen at the schools? (If there are no schools in your state that follow this practice, find a state that does.) Present a report to your teacher.
(The entire section is 235 words.)
One of the main focuses in Schlosser’s book is the effect of fast food on children, especially the advertising that is used to lure children into the restaurants. Dan Acuff, along with Robert H. Reiher, has written What Kids Buy and Why: The Psychology of Marketing to Kids (1997), which provides an insider view and deeper understanding of how advertising affects children.
George Ritzer wrote The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation Into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life (1996), which influenced some of Schlosser’s writing. For more in-depth reporting on the major fast food restaurants, this is a good book.
Schlosser’s book is often compared to an earlier work that shook up the meat industry at the turn of the twentieth century: The Jungle. Written by Upton Sinclair in 1906, this book helped to establish cleaner and healthier standards of food production in the United States.
Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (2007), written by Marion Nestle, reveals the significant pressure the food industry places on the U.S. Congress in order to gain laws favorable to its needs (and not necessarily the consumer’s health and welfare).
Greg Critser wrote Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (2003), exploring the rising incidence of obesity in America.
In an attempt to better understand how difficult it is to live off a minimum-wage job, Barbara Ehrenreich took time off her job as journalist and traveled around the States, living off a salary of $7.00 an hour. In her book, Nickel and Dimed (2002), she tells about that experience.
(The entire section is 262 words.)
For Further Reference
Nagorsky, Andrew. 2001. “Hold the French Fries.” Newsweek, February 26, p. 50. Nagorsky provides a detailed, favorable review of Fast Food Nation.
Schrambling, Regina. 2001. “Catching America With Its Hands in the Fries.” New York Times, March 21, p. F.1. Schrambling was impressed with Schlosser’s examination of the fast food industry.
Schlosser, Eric. 1998. “Fast Food Nation.” Rolling Stone, September 3, pp. 58-72. This is the article in Rolling Stone that started it all.
Shaw, Stephen A. 2001. “Review of Fast Food Nation.” Commentary 111 (5): 78-79. Shaw provided a somewhat skeptical review of Schlosser’s book.
Slivka, Andrey. 2001. “You Want Fries With That?” American Scholar 70 (2): 152-54. An in-depth, favorable discussion about Schlosser’s book.
Travers, Peter. 2006. “Review of Fast Food Nation (the movie).” Rolling Stone, no. 1014, November 30, p. 124. Travers praised both the book and the movie, which Schlosser helped to adapt.
(The entire section is 133 words.)