I love photo essays that capture and compare a parallel scenario in multiple cultures. In the brilliant photo essay chronicled in the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, thirty families from around the world are profiled in their home with a week’s worth of groceries.
Even if you just peruse the photos, you quickly see a number of trends.
The most obvious to me was that in the richer industrialized countries people ate more processed, pre-packaged food: from Lay’s potato chips and Corn Flakes to McDonald’s. In developing countries, many families ate more food right from the earth – beans, greens and and other naturally colorful foods.
I also noticed that the American family ate the least fruits and vegetables (in fact, barely any), while the families in India, Bhutan and Guatemala had rainbow displays of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables — most, if not all, locally grown.
The Australian family seemed to love their meat, while in Chad, there was no meat (that I could see anyhow). The Japanese family was the most enthusiastic about seafood, while the Italians showed their love of bread and the Mexican family proudly stood by a large display of soda.
The American family and a Sudanese family seemed to me to have the most concerning diets, but for entirely different reasons. The American family ate nearly all processed food (if you can even call some of the items food) and almost no fresh fruits and vegetables. Clearly, this American family is getting enough calories, but are they getting enough nutrition? Of course, not all Americans share this same high-fat, high-sugar diet, but unfortunately many do: about 71 percent of Americans are overweight, while nearly ten percent of our population has diabetes.