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Teen-Produced Video Takes on the Fast Food Industry

A group of young people from Oakland, California, is taking on the fast food industry in a clever new video about the dangers of unhealthy eating habits.

The video — conceptualized, written, and produced mostly by high school students with the help of Oakland-based Muse Video — parodies several familiar characters from various popular restaurant chains as they peddle junk food on the street similar to the way a drug dealer would drugs. The plot line begins in a back alley when four teens wake up from a night of binging on unhealthy snacks and find themselves transformed into fast food icons, working for a notorious gang leader, a strung-out-looking Ronald McDonald. The lyrics draw from popular marketing slogans, asking things like, “Are you feeling it? Or are you feeling sick?” As the story progresses, the teens stumble onto a party happening in an urban garden full of fruits and vegetables, and healthy food takes center stage.

"The goal of Muse Video is to be a platform that combines music and news," founder Jake Schoneker told Yahoo Health. "We work with young artists, videographers, poets, and rappers to take a look at community issues and current events and create various forms of art that address the issues that matter to young people." This particular project, Schoneker continued, started a couple of years ago when he approached several young Oakland artists about creating the song. Schonker hosted a series of workshops to educate the artists about the food system in America — including how lobbyists work and how policy is made — and discuss their personal experiences with food and what was available to them in their communities. "One young lady talked about her grandmother with diabetes and her 5-year-old brother who is losing teeth because he drinks too much soda," said Schoneker. "They had some really powerful stories."  

Out of those discussions the song was born, and the next step was to create a video. Schoneker worked with a group of students from MetWest high school to come up with a concept and then the students attended workshops to talk about the issues and watch documentaries about the food industry. The plot came out of subsequent brainstorming sessions and focuses on Ronald McDonald as the drug kingpin that’s ruling over these kids and making them sling sugar on the street corner. “The students really wanted to showcase how young people are being targeted by advertisers from these big fast food companies,” said Schoneker. “They wanted to fight back with their own voice in a form of media that would catch people’s attention and make kids think twice the next time they want to buy a burger or a Big Gulp.”