July 26, 2010

"What Do We Eat in a Week"

North Carolina, US, total spent in a week: $341

Thanks to the joys of Twitter, I just ran across this fascinating set of photos from a couple years ago. It was posted by someone on a now defunct online community, but was been saved from oblivion by a blogger at Obvious Magazine. [Updated: These pics were from the book, What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio]

The pics are entitled "what do we eat in a week?" and they present families from Germany, the U.S., Poland, Mexico, Italy, Egypt, Ecuador, Bhutan, and Chad standing next to their total weekly food purchases.

It provides a wonderful (and somewhat depressing) snapshot of food choices around the world. While it's only one photo and obviously isn't representative of a nation's diet, what stands out most is the almost total absence of vegetables from the U.S. family's table and the almost total domination of its food dollars by packaged, processed food.

Germany, total spent in a week: $500

The German family is a close second in terms of processed food with lots of soda (but more wine and beer) and ample supplies of processed meat. But even they have a good selection of greens. Not so the U.S. family.

Italy, Total spent in a week: $214

The Italian family has virtually no processed food -- some canned products and a bit of soda. Otherwise it's bread, fruit and veg and meat. As you travel into the developing world, the piles of food get smaller, but the percentage of vegetables increases.

I think, for the most part, the images speak for themselves. But I do think it's worth ending with the family from Chad as a good excuse to think about what "sufficiency" means when it comes to food.

Chad, total spent in a week: $1

'nuff said, don't you think?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe these pictures are taken from the book What The World Eats (similar or exactly the same as Hungry Planet). You should also check out another book by the same group (Peter Menzel and FaithD'Aluisio) called Material World.

Blogger tlaskawy said...

Yup. I updated the post. Thanks!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out their new book which releases on Aug 10 called What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets.
From the jacket (more or less)
What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets
Portraits and essays of 80 individuals and the food that fuels them over the course of a single day. With camera and notebook in hand, Peter and Faith traveled to 30 countries and more than a dozen U.S. states to shop, cook, and eat with a strikingly diverse range of people, including an Egyptian camel broker, a Japanese sumo wrestler, a Sudanese refugee in Chad, a Tibetan yak herder, a Bangladeshi factory seamstress, an Arctic hunter, an Indian Hindu sadhu, a Namibian diamond polisher, and a wounded Iraq war veteran.
The centerpiece of each photoessay is a portrait of the subject with that day’s worth of food, a text about daily life, and an exhaustively researched food list detailing every item consumed, along with the total calorie count. Adding context to the profiles are essays from Wendell Berry, Mary Collins, Michael Pollan, Ellen Ruppel Shell, Bijal P. Trivedi, Richard Wrangham, and Lisa R. Young that approach food politics and our endless obsession with diet. This visual and textual feast highlights the similarities as well as the extreme differences in the ways that we approach and consume food around the world. Compelling, informative, and sometimes disturbing, What I Eat provides more than simple food for thought; it reveals the implications of the modern diet for our personal health and for our planet while challenging the tacit assumptions hidden in our daily fare.

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