10.21.20 / “JUNK” FOOD + JUDGMENT

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mcdonald's menu

Do you feel conflicted about McDonald’s? You’ll feel even more so after listening to Episode 81 of The Four Top, in which Dr. Marcia Chatelain leads a discussion about the world’s most famous fast-food restaurant chain. For decades, McDonald’s has been both a champion of civil rights and a predatory business model for Black communities. This is a chapter of American history they didn’t teach you in school.

Next, eating disorders are typically viewed as affecting privileged white women. Whitney Trotter, nutritionist and body-positive therapist, paints a different picture. In marginalized neighborhoods where residents work two or three jobs and “junk” food is the only option for dinner, Trotter treats patients who struggle with internal conflict over the only sustenance available to them.

Finally, New York Times columnist Roxane Gay leads our conversation on the culturally entitled pastime of passing judgments on foods and bodies. Gay encourages constructive conversations about fatphobia and fatness.

Our panelists Marcia Chatelain, Whitney Trotter, and Roxane Gay

Meet our panelists: Dr. Marcia Chatelain is author and distinguished professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University. Whitney Trotter, MS, RD, LDN, RN, BSN, is founder of Bluff City Health in Memphis and cofounder and board director of Restore Corp. And Roxane Gay is an author, advice columnist, and contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times.

You can listen to Episode 81 of The Four Top through the OPB website or The Four Top’s dedicated site, as well as via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, NPR One, or your favorite podcast app.

Stay safe out there.



I have long been a fan of the work of both Dr. Marcia Chatelain and Roxane Gay, so it was a joy to dig into two of their books while preparing for Episode 81 of The Four Top.

From entirely different points of view, both works examine the ways in which society frames food choices and weight issues as personal failings rather than as systemic issues and institutional failures.

Roxane Gay’s searing memoir Hunger illuminates the disapproval people in fat bodies regularly face when grocery shopping, eating a meal, or just trying to live their lives. Hunger forces readers to confront their own unconscious judgments, and makes an issue that is often abstracted deeply personal: Gay traces her own tortured relationship with food back to a violently traumatic event that occurred during her childhood.

In Franchise, Dr. Marcia Chatelain recounts the little-known history of the McDonald’s corporation as the unofficial sponsor of Black America. (Portland, Oregon’s Black Panther Party makes a cameo appearance in the 1970s.) The prominent role McDonald’s has played in marginalized communities emphasizes the failings of our social welfare system.


franchise book by marcia chatelain

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