what the world eats

today, msn ran a photo essay titled “what the world eats”  using photos from Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by peter menzel and faith d’alusio.  in the essay, families from different countries laid out the food that they consumed in a typical week.  here are some of the excerpts:

united states: the revis familyfood-usa

 china – the dong familyfood-china

 mexico – the casales familyfood-mexico

 ecuador – the ayme familyfood-ecuador

 mali – the natomo familyfood-mali

 i am interested to hear what was your first reaction to these photos, if any?

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Joshua Becker

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Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
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  1. diane says

    I first saw these photos while I was between students and checking the news on a web site. I work with “at risk” high school students and many are from low income families. They compare themselves not only to other students, but to what they see on TV, which I think is even more damaging. When my next student arrived, I showed him the pictures and he was amazed at the limited variety of foods some of the families consumed. We talked about what people in other countries lived without and the difference between “wants” and “needs”. Because I have the similar book where families are shown with all their possessions outside of their houses, I was not surprised by these photos. I have now ordered this book for my classroom library. It’s a good reality checkpoint.

  2. says

    I believe this was done by CNN a couple of years ago?

    I absolutely LOVE these series! They’re such a harsh but true way to face reality!!!!

    That said, I’m almost ashamed of the people they picked for germany and italy.. living close to the german border and having an italian family myself, I can’t really identify with their diet.. or at least the quantity of food they’re buying.. ;)

    I love how the amount of food will stay somewhat stable in most pictures, but the family sizes differ so much. 12 people in Egypt eat about as much as 5 americans? wow!

    Great reality check, great series….
    Greetings from the netherlands!

  3. Meg says

    It’s hard to even tell for sure how much some families are eating. What you see in the American photo isn’t *food*, it’s packaging. The actual “food” (if you can call it that) inside the packages is probably much less, though still calorie dense. What a waste!

    The Mali photo in particular looks a lot more like my idea of food.

  4. says

    Actually my first thought was “wow, look at all the bottles of Coke in the Mexico photo!” Then I realized there’s also a lot more fruits and vegetables, which presented an interesting counterpoint.

    Second time through, like Linda, I noticed the first two photos are mostly processed and boxed foods, whereas the last two photos seem to be more locally grown.

    I went in expecting the American family to have the most food so that was no big surprise.

  5. says

    The American picture is sad; the ‘food’ is of poor nutritional value and there is so much packaging (waste). I was surprised to see the Chinese family with so much pre-packaged food. It’s also interesting to me that there is less meat and more grains consumed as you move down through the pictures.

  6. says

    I think you’ll find a far greater variety of consumers in the USA–many people are trying to be more conscious of their food choices these days.

    The top photo might have represented me and my friends/family even as recently as four or five years ago, but not today.

    Is that a line of giant cola bottles behind the Mexican family? If so, horrifying!

  7. Grace says

    I first thought WOW! Mexico really has a colorful and healthy diet……then I saw the soda at the back table. I would hardly classify the USA diet as food, just high calorie expensive packaging. The word that came to mind when Isaw their display was “LAZY”. I can imagine serving the USA kids lentils and brown rice with some fresh produce for a week and the amount of whinning that would go on. They’ld be healthier but the parents miserable.

  8. says

    My first reaction was that we in USA eat a lot of processed and junk food while other poor nations tend to eat little and most natural (and cheaper and better for them) food. Also, all them look happy, despite of various social and monetary holdings. Good for them.

    Makes me ponder, how would my family look like? Maybe somewhere in middle, we just do not eat enough fruits..:-( Got to change that.

  9. says

    Great post!

    Immediate thoughts:
    1. I love what the Mexican and Ecuadorian families eat. So fresh; most things are alive and biodegradable. Not sure about the bottles of Coke on the Mexican family’s table though.

    2. I’m amazed at how much more the developed world puts in its stomach. Compare the first two and last two families. Mexico seems to be between these two worlds. Makes me wonder at the number of over-eating (as in eating more than we need) that goes on worldwide.

    3. There’s really not a huge difference between China and the USA, if you take away the cultural divide. There appears to be a lot of processed food. Everything seems to have been bought from a supermarket as opposed to fresh markets.

  10. says

    i’m somewhere between the casales (without most of the products) and the aymes. i’m like the natomo on a frugal at the end of the resupply cycle.

  11. says

    my observations:

    1. the coca-cola in the mexica photo and the kfc in the chinese photo stuck out to me (indicating the continued globalization of “mcworld”).

    2. i was surprised at how little a family can eat and still remain healthy and happy… kinda makes me sound foolish for ever using the phrase, “i’m starving.”

    3. i was struck at the juxtaposition of the processed vs. natural foods represented in the photos.

    4. i find myself thankful that i live in a country (usa) with so many food choices (healthy and unhealthy). as i have written previously, i am fortunate enough to be minimalist by choice. i humbly realize that many families are forced to be minimalist by circumstances… and sometimes the only difference between me and them is the country that we were born in.

  12. Guy says

    As someone who spent a few weeks in China this year… I’m kind of surprised by the picture of a “typical Chinese Family”

  13. kabutar says

    american – packaging and, er, gluttony
    mexican – LOTS of fruit
    ecuador, mali – fruit, grains, staples, and not much variety or quantity…

  14. says

    I’d say the Chinese family look rather rich, although I haven’t been to China in person.

    Perhaps the richer you are, the more you eat – because you can and because it’s there.

  15. says

    I am struck by how much plastic is involved with the American and Chinese diets and the Mexican to a lesser degree. So much waste is produced by the packaging of grocery items.

  16. SolarInMaine says

    Just a note on the last two pictures.. If you remember that the rice, grains, and beans double in size when cooked, it’ll look more like enough to feed a large family.

  17. Jenna Rickson says

    My first reaction to this was how the food quantity got smaller and smaller with each picture and then I looked at quality of food and how the “typical american family” had all this junk food and then no so much with china and then you get to mexico and ecuador and they’re are tons of vegetables and grains and then with Mali there was extremely little food!

  18. Andrew says

    If you look at the Mali family. I wouldn’t say there is extremely little food there. Three massive sacks of grains. You can stretch that out into many meals.

    What interests me except for the prepackaged (egh) plastic stuff, there is very little meat shown here.

  19. Heather says

    I had seen many of these photos before in a Newsweek spread a few years ago. My husband and I still talk about it. In the article I saw, they also had a family from a refuge camp in Chad and it was very sobering to see what little they had. It also listed how much people spent on the food that they had, which was interesting to me, because even the family in Mexico was spending more on food for a week then we were at that time. That surprised me.
    I found out a few weeks ago from a friend that Peter Menzel also has a book called “Material World” where 30 statistically average families put out everything that they own. I thought you might be interested in that as well.

  20. Rebecca says

    For those who commented on the pre-packaged food in the Chinese family, they live in Beijing. It’s one of the biggest cities in China so of course they have access to prepackaged ‘Western” food. However, most people in China don’t live in big cities. Much is China is rural. However, on vacation in southern China and Hong Kong (I’m Chinese) my dad always told me that fresh fruits and vegetables are really expensive. Also, there’s dietary differences between the North and South (Southern china eats much more rice and fish). In fact, the Japan family’s diet looked more like mine here in America.

  21. Elisa says

    I can’t blame he Mexican family for drinking all of that coke, Mexican coke is the best! Mexican sodas in fact are all awesome in general. At least they use real cane sugar in their soda and not fake sweetener. At least their high veggie & fruit diet makes up for it! I wonder how typical these representations are in general. …

    • Lupita says

      I’m from Mexico and I can say that the picture of the Mexican Family is pretty close to reality. Because of Mexico’s climate, we can have a big variety of fruits and vegetables. Mexicans like the sweet fruit better. But on the other hand, there is an extremely big influence from the Coca Cola company and all that coke consumption is true.

  22. di says

    For 6 months, I had a stomach ulcer. I could only eat creamy oatmeal and water every 3 hours and lost 35 pounds.

    Thereafter, I added peas, legumes, lentils and green beans. I regained 10 pounds within a month and felt strong once again.

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