I came to the subject of food and nutrition as a filmmaker—not as an expert or an activist, but as someone who was interested in exploring our nation's food industry. While making Food, Inc.
, I discovered a lot of things that troubled me about America's food system. What struck me the most is the unseen cost of our low-cost food system. We spend less on food today than ever before, but will we be paying higher costs down the line in regard to our health?
In The Omnivore's Dilemma
, Michael Pollan
brilliantly lays out the argument that corn is the key driver of the industrial food system. Our government subsidizes corn and encourages farmers to grow it. So much corn is being grown that it shows up in just about everything we buy, from the processed foods in the supermarkets to the meat and poultry we eat.
The low cost of corn has driven prices of other food down. When a gallon of soda is cheaper than a gallon of fresh milk, families are faced with the difficult decision of deciding what is most important: Feed their families something healthy and not have money left over for necessities; or fill them up with something affordable that also may be bad for their health.
This dilemma of having to chose between costly, healthy food and affordable food that may have negative repercussions really hit home when we filmed in a Southern California community that is considered a "food desert"—a place where there are virtually no supermarkets, but lots of fast food options. We met parents that wanted the best for their children, but they were drawn to fast food because it was inexpensive. It filled them up and was easily available.
The problem is that this family and many others may be saving costs, but they also may be paying a higher price down the line. This particular community suffers a disproportionately high level of diabetes, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three children born in the United States in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes
at some point in their lives.