Get 'Fed Up' With the Documentary's Director and Executive Producer
This past weekend, a new documentary hit theaters that asks hard questions about what Americans eat and why. Fed Up examines the effect of added sugar on the American diet and our high rates of childhood obesity and chronic disease, and asks hard questions about the food industry's role in creating an eating environment that fosters those problems.
The film's executive producer, Laurie David, and its director, Stephanie Soechtig, answered some of my questions about Fed Up, how they hope it will affect America's eating habits, and what they learned as they made the film. Read on to learn more about this important new documentary and the women behind it:
Photo Credit: PictureMotion
Genie Gratto: While of course I'm sure you're hoping this film finds a wide audience, is there one specific audience you think would most benefit from seeing it?
Laurie David: If you are a person who eats food, you should see this movie. In fact, one of the taglines for the film is, "Watch it...before you take another bite!"
Stephanie Soechtig: Women (and especially stay-at-home mothers or fathers) and their children might get the most out of Fed Up. Moms (and stay-at-home Dads) should see it because they make so many decisions about what their household eats, and children should see it because they could be the next activists for creating a healthier future.
GG: Were you surprised that Michelle Obama—or, for that matter, anyone from the Let's Move campaign—declined the opportunity to speak to you for this documentary?
LD: I think we were more disappointed than surprised.
SS: I was surprised because this is their platform. Also, we had such an esteemed journalist attached to the project, they were basically guaranteed a very fair interview.
GG: There was a great deal of focus on government's role in reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. While I would agree with you that's crucial to the effort, there are still great numbers of people in this country who continue to believe personal and parental responsibility is paramount to solving this problem and reversing chronic disease rates. How do you think they'll hear the message of this film?
SS: I respectfully disagree—the idea of personal choice is intrinsic in this story. What choice do you really have if you're not getting the information presented in the film? Up until now, marketing disguised as science has been our primary source of information. While I believe the government has a role to play here, ultimately I hope what the film accomplishes is creating a new legion of consumers.
LD: I think the film does a great job of confronting a lot of conventional wisdom we are used to hearing and stands it on its head. Really, if the food is addictive, purposely formulated to hook you, and it's pushed on you 24-7 from the time you are a small child, how is that a personal responsibility issue?
GG: The film discusses the food industry's powerful messaging against public health and anti-obesity policy change, and point to their now-standard outcry about the "nanny state." Do you think there's more public health advocates could be doing to combat that "nanny state" messaging? What do you think would resonate with those who, so far, buy into the food industry's side of the story?
LD: Corporations will spend any amount of money and go to great lengths to protect their bottom line. Fed Up wants to protect people. It's funny—a “nanny” is a person we hire to take care of and protect our kids. Even the term is a misnomer! Also, information is power. Fed Up gives you a lot of information that will change the way you hear these arguments, change the way you shop for food and change the way you eat.
SS: I think people are neglecting the fact that there has been a “nanny” telling us what to eat for many decades, and that nanny has been the food industry. They have been shaping the palates of babies and children for so long. For me, I would prefer to have the body that informs me of what we should be eating have public health as their goal versus corporate wealth. Furthermore, regarding this idea of government as “nanny state”—my nanny is someone that I rely on and trust as much as any member of my family, so I don’t know why we use the phrase “nanny state” as a bad thing. A nanny is someone who looks after our children.