Guest post: Abigail Meisel, writing teacher
Driving across northern Alabama recently—en route from my current hometown, Montague, Massachusetts, to my former hometown of Oxford, Mississippi—I had a fantasy of a yearly, secret meeting between titans of the pharmaceutical industry and masters of the fast-food industry.
The idea popped into my head when, driving back roads in the South, I passed through towns where the only commercial signs of life were a MacDonald’s (or Taco Bell or Wendy’s) on one side of the street and a CVS on the other. Many towns didn’t seem to have a grocery store with fresh produce.
Suddenly I saw, really saw, what was before my eyes. A food source that makes people sick with cardiac disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and depression—all illnesses linked to processed food. Then, steps away, a drugstore chain that ratchets up the prices of already overpriced Beta blockers for high cholesterol, insulin for diabetes, SSRI’s for depression, and opioids for pain—all highly profitable classes of drugs.
Could it really be this simple? Make people sick with processed food so they need pharmaceuticals to survive?
That’s when the vision of a secret meeting of fast-food and drug czars occurred to me. The two industries fit together like hand and glove. They have the same interest: to generate billions of dollars in profit from people’s bodies. What would happen to stock values if people banded together to obtain actual food—forming cooperatives, for example?
Would MacDonald’s et al buy up every available acre of arable land and let it lie fallow? Would they hire lobbyists to pass legislation to jack up the prices of seeds? Would they make fast food even more addictive than it already is and give it away until people were hooked? Would they hire advertising agencies to launch disinformation campaigns about the harm of fresh vegetables?
It sounds absurd, and, quite frankly, paranoid to envision a stealth plot to sicken the public. But looking around northern Alabama, at the ubiquitous obesity, I thought, “this can’t be a coincidence.”
Abigail Meisel, writing teacher