Roger Ebert Home

Food, Inc. 2

“My relationship with food is complicated …very complicated. Because I have Type 1 diabetes,” says Larissa Zimberoff, author of the investigative book Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change the Way We Eat and one of the many interview subjects in the documentary “Food, Inc. 2” a sequel to, you guessed it, 2008’s “Food, Inc.”

“I think most of us love food, but we don’t have to think about it every day, every hour,” Zimberoff continues. I don’t want to make light of her condition, but I sometimes actually ask my wife “What are you thinking about for dinner” at seven in the morning.

Thing about me is I’ll eat almost anything, and if there’s a new form of junk food I become aware of, I’ll try it at least once. You ever hear of Dwight Yoakam’s “Chicken Rings Afire?” No? I’ve had ‘em. They were … interesting.

This movie, directed by Robert Kenner and Melissa Robledo, picks up where the first one left off in exposing the at-times mind-bogglingly unwholesome practices of America’s corporate food concerns in manipulating us to consume that which is bad for us. But it begins by sharing the ostensibly good news, which is that increased food consciousness is making healthy and still delicious options more available to us. I’ve been casually following these issues long enough that when the first talking head was identified on screen, I said, “Wow, Michael Pollan got old.” He states that “Food is a set of relationships,” and talks about how awareness of this fact has led to localization and more farmer’s markets than ever before. From then on it the good news ceases for a while. “We thought we could create food system consistent with our values.” But the obstacles were great.

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, chronicles how the prosperity and competition among food providers in the 1950s went by the wayside due to monopolization. And how the pandemic gave the lie to the U.S.’s smug sense of sufficiency. Controlled by a small group of corporations, the system thrived on predictability. The COVID pandemic threw predictability out the window, and so chaos, and shortages where there never should have been any, reigned.

The filmmakers stress connectivity, in keeping with Pollan’s opening statement. Mistreatment of migrant workers in Florida sets down a set of dominoes at the other end of a set that’s being turned by biolabs making “ultra-processed foods.” Climate change makes itself known, you bet. Soda companies blanche when presented with the fact that “if you reduce calories by artificial sweetener you’re doing more harm than good.” In the meantime, fast-food joints (or as they prefer to be called, “Quick Service Restaurants”) are going beyond supersizing in their portions.

It's bracing to see my beloved Baconator in a montage of things that Are Bad For You, and at one point in the movie I did have to put away my Crunchy Jalapeno Cheddar Cheetos out of guilt. Why did I get assigned this movie? Anyway. Representing the forces of good are New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who got involved in agricultural issues because he sees low-income constituents as constant targets for the pushers of addictive unhealthy food, and a few food producers who put aside the ways of the corporations and opt for small scale, wholesome innovations. For a while it seems that every time the movie offers a bright spot in the picture, it’s countered by a “yes, but” as when Schlosser expresses some skepticism about the plant-based burger. (It’s a skepticism I share, but perhaps not for the same reasons.) “I really believe that kelp is gonna be the most sustainable food on the planet,” one sea farmer says. “Dig in!” I thought.

But seriously. This is an engaging and watchable activist documentary that does make way for optimism in its last minutes, but doesn’t, um, sugarcoat its envoi about changing our eating ways: “Not only can we do it, we have to.”  

 

Glenn Kenny

Glenn Kenny was the chief film critic of Premiere magazine for almost half of its existence. He has written for a host of other publications and resides in Brooklyn. Read his answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

Now playing

We Grown Now
Prom Dates
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
You Can't Run Forever
Lazareth
The Contestant

Film Credits

Food, Inc. 2 movie poster

Food, Inc. 2 (2024)

94 minutes

Latest blog posts

Comments

comments powered by Disqus