"Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us." - Peter De Vries
As I wander through the labyrinth of my local grocery store, I cannot help but notice how things have changed. Metal carts overflowing with food and the once prevalent "market" section is now gleaming with the reflection of glass doors and the glow of brightly colored boxes, frozen meals ready for consumption. It was not always this way. I can still remember when I would travel to the store with my mother, help pick ripe fruit and vegetables for the family. This memory now clouded with the current sight of a child sitting in a cart grazing on fried potato crisps as his mother decides whether to buy the regular or the value sized bag. When did this change occur? When did we all of a sudden choose the premade package of "gourmet" frozen dinners rather than making a simple pasta dish for the family? With this abrupt change in our diets also came the inevitable change in portions provided by the grotesquely large food companies. And now with my home town of Chicago being ranked in the top ten most obese cities in America, it is time we discover where we went wrong.
It is not new to us as Americans to see how our beloved country has gone from glorious to gluttonous. The amount of food that we consume has dramatically increased in the past thirty years and it is continuously on the rise. In reports by the U.S. Census Bureau, the per capita consumption of major food commodities has grown considerably. Since 1970, the amount of poultry consumed has risen from 40.8 pounds to 72.2 pounds per capita per year in 2006. The total fat content consumed has also risen from 56.1 pounds to 78.6. And the big winner, high fructose corn syrup, has amplified from 19 pounds in 1970 to a staggering 62.6 pounds in 2000! Many of us as Americans have seen this transformation happening around us and have decided to take a stand. This abrupt cultural awareness started with a simple documentary produced by Morgan Spurlock called, "Supersize Me." In this documentary, Spurlock ate solely at McDonalds for thirty days straight to see what kind of implications it would have on his health. The outcome of Spurlock's new diet shocked his doctors and millions of viewers. Spurlock gained 24 ½ pounds, had a cholesterol level of 230, and was showing signs of liver failure due to excessive amount of fat accumulation.
I decided to go on a similar adventure to discover why we have changed our diets and how portion sizes have grown to what they are today. I wanted to see where, in my life, have things changed and how they may be affecting others. I began my adventure at my old high school located in a south suburb of Chicago. I remember when I would stand in the endless line of students awaiting the selection of sustenance that was prepared by our lunch "Chef" Mrs. Giza. She stood five and a half feet tall, her alabaster hair was motionless in the weave of her hairnet and her smile was clearly visible from every table in the lunch room. She has been working for the school for over twenty years as a lunch lady and she always managed to bring a smile to our faces with her jokes and "outlandish" sense of humor. I contacted Mrs. Giza with the hopes that she could shed some light on how student’s diets have changed over the years.
Mrs. Giza explains,
"About ten years ago, I noticed a real change in the diets of the students. For one thing, More students were buying their lunches, previously we only had to staff three lunch employees and we hired two more in one year to make up for the increase in lunches sold. Additionally, the school decided to employ the services of a school meal provider. It made our job much easier but the food that we sold was obviously not healthy for the students. The pizzas were larger and the number one food that I had a problem with was the Texas Burger. A large...