The Impact of Fast Food on Local Community




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The Impact of Fast Food on Local Community


Christian Values and the Global Community

Spring 2006

Pete Suter

Table of Contents


Forward …………………………………………………………. 3

1. Fast Food and Obesity ………………....…..……………….… 4

2. Fast Food in America: Low Wages ……………………….… 11

3. From Waist to Waste …………………….…………………. 20

4. The Benefits of the Fast Food Industry on the Individual ….. 28

5. Building the Relationship Between Fast Food and Community

........... 37

Works Cited ……………………………………………………. 40

Forward

We -as Pete Suter’s Spring 2006 Christian Values in the Global Community class- worked on a community task force project to bring awareness of the implications of having fast food restaurants in a community. Different groups of people worked on researching different aspects of fast food in the community. Information was collected about fast food restaurants’ contribution to communities through the lenses of obesity, wages, waste, benefits, and community relations. While there may be negatives surrounding the fast food industry, fast food restaurants/chains do benefit the community in some ways.

1. Fast Food and Obesity

America is the fattest country in the entire world and is getting fatter. Obesity is the second biggest killer next to deaths caused by smoking. In 1991, 1 in every 8 adults was obese; in 1999, 1 in every 5 adults was obese, which shows how America is becoming more obese all of the time. In 1991, only four states had obesity prevalence rates of 15 to 19% and no states had rates at or above 20%. On the other hand, in 2004, 7 states had 15 to 19% prevalence; an overwhelming number of 33 states had 20 to 24% prevalence, and 9 states had rates of more than 25% prevalence. The U.S. Surgeon General says that 61% of Americans are significantly overweight compared to in the 1990’s of 55% and in the 1970’s, where it was 46%. The question is, are these results a direct effect of the fast food industry?

One in every four people visits fast food daily. With the average American eating 3 hamburgers and four orders of fries a week, there are several reasons why fast food is being blamed for our nation’s obesity problem. The first is that fast food has begun to infiltrate their way into our schools and colleges. In about every school and on every college campus, one will see a vending machine either filled with pop and/or snacks filled with high concentrations of fat and sugar. 13 percent of our nation’s schools have a fast food franchise either directly selling their product to students or are supplying the schools with their processed foods. This is because fast food franchises give the schools money for scholarships and upgrades in return for the right to sell their product in that location.

The second reason is that fast food has even invaded our nation’s hospitals. In the UCLA Medical Center, they offer their employees and patients a full sushi bar and a full salad bar. Here in Ohio, Toledo hospitals have a contract to only sell McDonalds and The Ohio State University Medical Center has a contract with Wendy’s.

The last and most influential reason that fast food is to be blamed for our obesity problem is the impact it has in the media. Advertising for fast food companies has two problems that go along with it. One is that because of their advertising, they are showing bigger portions for cheap prices. The second reason is that they are targeting children with their ads. The average child sees 10,000 TV ads per year for fast food restaurants. This is the main reason why more than 90% of children eat fast food at least once a month. Because of these fast food ads, children begin to set their unhealthy eating habits for life.

There are two direct effects obesity has on our nation, one being on the body itself and the other on our nation’s wallet. Obesity has several effects on a person’s body. The first is an obvious weight gain. Obesity also increases the bad cholesterol in the body. It causes both an increase in the risk of heart disease and the risk of diabetes. Diabetes has been proven to take 17 to 27 years off an individual’s life. Some of the decreases it causes are a person’s energy and their sex drive.

The second effect is on our nation’s wallet, causing mass amount of money to be spent on obesity issues. 117 billion dollars was spent on healthcare for the obese last year. US Healthcare spent 61 billion dollars trying to diagnose, care, and prevent obesity. America spent 115 billion dollars on fast food last year, which is more than what we spent on higher education, cars, or computers. Compared to our nation only spending 33 billion dollars on weight loss aids, it seems our weight loss problem is not going to get fixed soon.

There have been a couple recent studies on obesity. The first study was done over a 15 year span which is the first long-term study done on fast food. The study was done to compare what happens to people when they eat fast food more than twice a week compared to eating fast food less than twice a week. They found a correlation between fast food, weight gain, and insulin resistance. For the people who ate fast food more than twice a week, they had an 86 percent chance more likely of becoming obese and having Type 2 Diabetes. Those same people also averaged gaining ten more pounds of body weight and had a two times greater resistance to their body’s own insulin.

The most recent study was done to see if fast food was addictive. The studies are surprisingly saying yes. Experts say that binging on high foods in fats and sugars makes it hard for your body and brain to say no. They believe with early exposure to fast foods, then it is most likely that the child will continue eating fast foods into adulthood and that their consumption of fast food will increase with age. Sarah Leibowitz, a neurobiologist from Rockafellor University in New York says that, “hormonal changes from gorging on fat and sugar causes brain changes normally associated with addiction drugs such as heroin.” What is the response from the fast food companies? All of the companies have felt the health kick and Coke and Pepsi have responded by diversifying into fruit juices and water beverages. McDonalds has begun remodeling their restaurants to make the places more warming and inviting to families. They have added play places for the children, and in Bluffton, they have a Playstation console for the children to play. Other restaurants have kids’ areas whether it is a play place or a Lego area. They have all also responded by having some healthy alternatives on their menus.

The fast food industry has taken a lot of heat because of the increases in obesity in America. As a result, many restaurants are offering healthy alternatives to their high calorie foods in order to promote a healthier diet for Americans. A lot of these alternatives cost a little extra money, such as sub from Subway or a Fruit and Walnut Salad from McDonald’s, but will cut down the cost of medical care as a result of high calorie, unhealthy foods from fast food restaurants. Once again, $117 Billion was spent last year in medical expenses as a result of fast food and the effects on the body. For a couple of extra dollars on a healthier alternative, it will help out more in the long run because it will cut down medical expenses as well as increase your expected lifespan and well-being.

A couple of companies that have made a stand in regards to offering healthy alternatives are McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Subway. McDonald’s is offering the Fruit and Walnut Salad, salads such as the Side Salad and Caesar Salad, and grilled chicken sandwiches. One thing that is on the agenda of McDonald’s is putting apples in Happy Meals for young children instead of French fries which would promote healthier eating at a young age.

Wendy’s has been the most innovative in the way they can offer healthy alternatives. At every fast food restaurant that you go to, it is standard to get fries as your side with a value meal. Wendy’s thought outside of the box, and came up with the idea to pick your own side which have healthier alternatives to fries. Some of the choices that you have to choose from are Wendy’s Chili, Side Salad, Chicken Caesar Salad, mandarin with oranges, and yogurt with granola. These give customers alternatives to French fries, which are high in fat, calories, and grease. One other thing that Wendy’s has to offer in regards to healthy alternatives is their Garden Sensations Salads.

Subway has always promoted healthier eating with their Jared Fogle commercials and low fat subs. Subway has a menu of subs that are 6 grams of fat or less. They also have a carb-conscious menu and low-fat alternative condiments to put on your sub. They also have a lot of different types of vegetables to put on your sub as well. Subway has been the benchmark for healthy eating and that is what they advertise about as an advantage over the traditional fast food restaurants. Almost everything they promote has to deal with healthier eating.

With fast food restaurants making strides in offering more healthy alternatives to their normal menu, there is an argument being made that the portion sizes of their unhealthy foods are too big.

According to Recommended Portion Size a person should eat three ounces of meat which is about the size of a deck of cards or bar of soap, three ounces of fish, about the size of a checkbook, one ounce of cheese, the size of 4 dice, Medium potato: size of a computer mouse, 2 Tbs. peanut butter: size of a ping pong ball, 1 cup pasta: size of a tennis ball, Average bagel: size of a hockey puck.

In order to eat even healthier and watch calories one should eat medium apple or orange: the size of a tennis ball, 1 cup chopped raw vegetables or fruit: baseball size, 1/4 cup dried fruit (raisins, apricots, mango): a small handful, lunch-box size container of unsweetened applesauce, cup of lettuce: four leaves, chicken stir-fry with, 1 cup of mixed broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms (= 2 vegetable servings), 1/2 cup cooked or canned legumes (beans and peas), 5-6 baby carrots

The Recommended Calories for an adult male for one day is 2900 and for a woman are only 2200. Comparing this to what Fast Food Restaurants serve shows a big difference. For example, eating at McDonalds takes up about half of one day’s Recommended Calories in one meal. In fact if you order a Big Mac Value Meal you’re consuming about 1110 calories. Add that with no exercise and you’re bound to get a boom in the obesity ratio among the population. In order to fix this problem there must be ways of offering smaller portions on meals.

Finally, we did a study to see what it is like to eat one of the staple meals at each of the fast food restaurants that we investigated. Remember, for a man the Recommended Calories for a day are 2900, and for a woman, 2200. At McDonald’s, getting the Big Mac Value Meal would give a man about half of his daily recommended calories at 1440 calories. A Big Mac is 560 calories, large fries are 570, and a large Coke is 310 calories. Burger King was the worst with their Whopper Value Meal consisting of a total of 1570 calories. The Whopper contains an overwhelming amount of calories, which are 760. Arby’s offers one of the healthier staple meals with their value meal totaling 1010 calories. The Roast Beef Sandwich has 400 calories, large curly fries have 300, and the large Coke has 310 calories. Taco Bell’s Crunch Wrap Supreme Value Meal has a total of 1030, which is lower than all of the others except for Arby’s. KFC’s value meal consisted of 1200 calories with most of the calories coming from the two pieces of original recipe chicken, which contained 760 calories. Finally, for Marbeck & Bob’s Place, we just picked out something similar to that of the regular fast food restaurants. The cheeseburger is 560 calories, fries are 310 calories, and the large Coke is 310 calories for a total of 1180 calories.

From this study on calories in value meals, we see why our country is becoming obese. It is up to the American people what they want to order from these fast food menus. With healthy alternatives, it gives the people another option to eat healthier to promote a better lifestyle. The problem is that so many people still order these staple meals from the fast food restaurants instead of the healthy alternatives, which still leads to obesity in the long run.

In conclusion, what can be done by us to make this situation better? First, the American people need to be made aware of how many calories that they are consuming compared to their daily recommended amount when they eat these staple meals. Secondly, the American people need to be made more aware of the other options besides foods high in fat and sugar. Thirdly, when it comes to advertising, there needs to be an effort to eliminate advertisements aimed at children because the average child sees 10,000 television advertisements per year about fast food. Finally, we need to get fast food out of schools in order to promote healthier eating. This is just a start to what can be done in order to get obesity rates among American people through fast food restaurants.

2. Fast Food in America: Low Wages

Introduction


In order to better understand the implications of low wages in our society, we have created a budget to show total income and total expenses. In addition to creating a budget, we have also constructed an imaginary family of four people, with two parents and two children. The children’s ages are seven and three, and the seven-year old is currently in school. Within this family, one parent is working two jobs, and the other parent is working one job.

There are not many assets or benefits for this family. They have one old car, which has a fair amount of maintenance and upkeep. Even though the two parents combined have three jobs, they do not have any health benefits, such as health insurance, dental coverage, or eye care coverage. This is a direct result to their low wage jobs at fast food restaurants. The two parents have also decided not to buy health insurance because the premiums are very costly. Therefore, when medical needs arise, the parents will have to pay for these services out of their own pocket. Unfortunately, paying for services outright is less expensive than buying medical insurance for a family of four. As a result of their meager earnings, this couple will not be able to obtain a mortgage. Thus, they will rent an apartment as their primary dwelling residence. This family will reside in Bluffton, Ohio, which is a small village in Northwest Ohio.


The Budget

There are two budgets that have been designed for this family. One budget is a yearly budget, which shows what the overall income and expenses are for one year. The other budget is one that shows income and expenses on a weekly basis. Within the budget, there are certain expenses that include several different items. The budgeted amount for other transportation costs includes the family’s car payment and maintenance costs associated with the car. Insurance expense consists of car insurance and renter’s insurance.


Per Year




Per Week
















Income

Amount




Income

Amount

Hourly Wage

7.06




Hourly Wage

7.06

Hours Per Week

30.00




Hours Per Week

30.00

Weeks in Year

49.00










Income #1

10,378.20




Income #1

211.80
















Hourly Wage

6.50




Hourly Wage

6.50

Hours Per Week

20.00




Hours Per Week

20.00

Weeks in Year

49.00










Income #2

6,370.00




Income #2

130.00
















Hourly Wage

7.06




Hourly Wage

7.06

Hours Per Week

35.00




Hours Per Week

35.00

Weeks in Year

49.00










Income #3

12,107.90




Income #3

247.10
















Gross Income

28,856.10




Gross Income

588.90
















Expenses

Amount




Expenses

Amount

Taxes

2,885.61




Taxes

46.18

Food/Toiletries

9,100.00




Food/Toiletries

175.00

Rent

5,400.00




Rent

103.85

Gas for Car

6,240.00




Gas for Car

120.00

Other Transportation

Costs*

3,000.00




Other Transportation

Costs*

57.69

Insurance**

1,100.00




Insurance**

21.15

Clothing

2,000.00




Clothing

38.46

Childcare (for one child)

6,500.00




Childcare (for one child)

125.00

Entertainment

600.00




Entertainment

11.54

Total Expenses

36,825.61




Total Expenses

698.87
















Net Income (Loss)

(7,969.51)




Net Income (Loss)

(109.97)
















*Car Payment, Maintenance













**Car Insurance & Renter's Insurance











Credit Cards, Savings, and Retirement

Since the expenses of this family are more than what the parents are making in income, this family will more than likely have several credit cards in order to have more purchasing power. However, some of these credit cards are probably at the maximum point of spending, and the parents are paying the minimum payment for each of them. As a result of low income and high expenses, there is not enough money left over each week, month, or year for this couple to set aside money for retirement or to increase their savings account. This can be detrimental when the couple reaches retirement, as they will have to keep working well into retirement to supplement their retirement income.


Transportation

There will only be one car, as this is all they will be able to afford. For this family, it might be cheaper to use public transportation, but this might seriously limit their mobility, especially if there is limited access to public transportation. The car would be high mileage, and therefore would not return high miles per gallon rating. The car would not have everything working and the materials would not be in perfect condition. This car would simply be used to get a each of the family members from travel point A to travel point B.

This car will need to be either shared or used for car-pooling each parent to and from work. This will create strains on both individuals, especially if one or the other person is running late and will make the other person late as well. Also, this will only magnify the problem if the car does break down, since this will not just affect one person’s job or income, but both.

Another problem pertaining to transportation is the maintenance and upkeep of this car, partly due to the low wages of the family. Since it is a high mileage car, it will not be running as smoothly as it did when it was new. Most vehicles last to about 150,000 miles, but if it is properly maintained, than it can last up to 300,000 miles (Weisbaum, 2006). The problem is that there may be things that go wrong with the car such as an alternator, fan, fuel line, radio, and heater. When this happens, there may not be enough money to repair this car as it was originally, and there will not be enough money to go out and buy another car either.

Gas prices can also have a very drastic affect on how much this person will be able to drive. If the price of gas hovers above $2.50 per gallon or more, this person will only be able to drive to work and back, with the occasional stop for groceries, etc. This will also squeeze funds that were once available for other things such as food, repairs for the car or even insurance.


Education

When people need to get an education there are many venues available. There are training schools, community colleges, and accelerated adult classes available. There are also options available in all three of these institutions for people working to further their education.

In Training Schools, people can work toward obtaining their high school diploma if they dropped out of school earlier. After that, they can take classes that fit their schedule, which will help train them in specific skills so that they can obtain better jobs. These schools work closely with local employers in the area so that students graduating are ready to go to work. One training school in the area is Apollo Career Center in Lima. They take high school students and adults and train them. After these students graduate from here, they have the option of going to a community college or technical school.

In community colleges, people can further their training with more in-depth studying in their field of work. This type of college usually has a two-year program for full-time students, which will train students in a more hands on form of education. One such community college in this area is James A. Rhodes State College in Lima. The programs are usually more focused on a specific industry or field than training schools. These colleges work very closely with employers from the community to establish which skills they expect from the graduates after they graduate and are ready to be hired. Usually, students can work full-time or part-time at these colleges, which allows them to take as many classes as they would like. They also have the option of taking these classes during the day or evening. Classes at community colleges can also be taken at any time during the year. After they get their Associates Degree from this college, the students have the option of going to work or continuing toward accelerated degree with their local college.

With accelerated degree programs, working people can work to achieve their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in many different fields, including business. Usually these programs are taken by people who are at the point in their career where they need more training in the form of an advanced degree to get a promotion at their company. The different materials that are covered in these programs are fairly in depth. The majority of these classes is available at night and usually is four hours in length per night of class. These classes are designed with working people in mind. Much of the work that is usually done out of class, is done in class to make things easier. As a result, these classes are very intense. One such program available in this area is the AGE program offered at Bluffton University. While all of these different programs are available, some obstacles seem to stand in the way for low-income workers to enroll in these programs.

First, since this family is making a low wage, money is a critical factor. Based on our proposed budget, there is little or no money available for either parent to go back to school and earn a degree. Luckily, there are programs available to help in this area. For each school, there are a number of scholarships and tuition equalization programs available. This option may be harder to find than most of the other forms of assistance. A lot of research must be done to find scholarships that are available. In addition, there are many students vying for any one scholarship. Furthermore, there are low interest loans available, such as the Stafford and Perkins Loans. These loans are usually paid off after the student has graduated. There are also various forms of government assistance, such as a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for lifetime learning expenses. If a person is fortunate, they may also have an employer that may provide some form of matching funds for continuing education. So financially, there are ways to pay for college.

Finally, the other major factor influencing low wage people trying to get a degree or training is time. Usually, most people need to work one or more jobs to make a living. This means that they would need to work more than the usual forty-hour workweek. Looking at our example family, both parents are working, and they are caring for their children as well. This would cause a great deal of stress on the family if one parent tried to further their education. Aside from daily responsibilities such as taking care of the children and helping with schoolwork, they are barely making enough money to support the family, let alone providing enough money and time to further their education. They may be able to squeeze in one or two classes during the summer. I feel that this is almost impossible for our example family in their current position with all the responsibilities required of them.

As you can see, there are many different options available to people trying to get a better job through education. They can slowly but surely make their way towards a better career. There are monetary means of support available to help people struggling financially.


Assistance Programs

There are assistance programs available to low-income families, who are similar to our example family. Help Me Grow is a program for birth to 3 year olds that provides federal, state, and local funds to implement trans-disciplinary, family-centered services for expectant parents, newborns, infants, toddlers and their families. This program provides health and developmental services so children start school healthy and ready to learn.

Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC, is a program designed for low-income, nutritionally at risk pregnant women, breastfeeding women, non-breastfeeding post-partum women, and infants and children up to 5 years old. WIC provides supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education, and counseling at WIC clinics and screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services.

The Food Stamp Program, also known as FSP, is a national program run by state and local welfare offices. Its purpose is to end hunger and improve nutrition and health. It helps low-income households buy the food they need for a nutritionally adequate diet. To be eligible for the program, households must meet income and resource standards. Able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must register for work, take part in an employment training program and continue suitable employment. Additionally, you must be a U.S. citizen in order to participate in this program. However, exceptions are made in some cases for non-citizens under new laws.

The national school lunch program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to eligible children. To qualify for free meals, a family has to have an income at or below 130 percent of the poverty level. To receive reduced lunches, families have to have incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty level.

For most of these programs, our example family would not qualify due to their income level and the number of people in this family. The official poverty level in the United States is $18,500. Our example family has approximately $29,000 in gross income for one year. Consequently, this family would not be able to acquire assistance, and this would put added stress and pressure on this couple.


Low Wages and Stress

In addition to stresses caused by finances, low-income families also have strained relationships between friends and family. Sometimes divorce, separation, and other disturbances in the family are caused by the fact that they do not have adequate time to form healthy, lasting relationships. The hours required by many low paying jobs have very demanding and non-traditional hours, which causes difficulty finding quality family time. As noted in a newsletter written by the National Council on Family Relations, “…when married couples with children work nights or rotating shifts, their risk of separation and divorce increases.” Financial stress not only causes stress between parents, but also adds stress to the children involved (#1).

Family time is another important issue concerning relationships between parents and children of low-income jobs. Some families are able to adapt to their schedules. But overall, it is shown that when parents find time to do something special with their child, it is often taking away personal time and rest away from the working parent. This causes the parent to have less energy and adds additional stress between family members (#2).

For our example family, financial strain and stress are probably all too familiar. With the hours that each parent is working per week, there is little time to devote to children or other activities. This couple possibly does not have healthy relationships outside of work either. There is little or time to spend building relationships with people.

3. From Waist to Waste
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