More than one third of adults in the United States are obese. The CDC estimates that there are over 112,000 obesity-related deaths annually, and for years now, the government has waged a very public war on the problem. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona warned in 2006 that “obesity is the terror within,” going so far as to call it a threat that “will dwarf 9/11.” Health care reform, prevention and wellness grants, information requirements for menus, Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign—it seems like every year brings a new initiative attempting to stem the tide of obesity in the United States.
What doesn’t get mentioned in all this? The fact that the federal government helped create the obesity crisis in the first place—especially in one place where it is acute, among urban African American communities. With Supersizing Urban America, Chin Jou tells that little-known story of how the US government got into the business of encouraging fast food in inner cities, with unforeseen consequences we’re only beginning to understand. Jou begins her story in the late 1960s, when predominantly African-American neighborhoods went from having no fast food chain restaurants to being littered with them. She uncovers the federal policies that have helped to subsidize that expansion, including loan guarantees to fast food franchisees, programs intended to promote minority entrepreneurship, and urban revitalization initiatives. On top of all that, fast food companies began to relentlessly market to urban African American consumers. An unintended consequence of these developments was that low-income, minority communities became disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic.
?In the first book about the US government’s problematic role in promoting fast food in inner-city America, Jou tells a riveting story of the food industry, obesity, and race relations in America that is essential to understanding health and obesity in contemporary urban America.