While so many Americans are obese and simultaneously malnourished (from not getting the proper nutrients), some families photographed may have the opposite issue with undernourishment. The Sudanese family living at a refugee camp in Eastern Chad gets supplemental food from International Aid agencies. Even though their week of food looks meager, the Aboubakar family appears to be healthy, albeit slight in build.
In the same photo mentioned above, notice what beautiful teeth the 16 year old boy, Abdel, is showing off with his gentle smile — very few American or European kids have such great teeth and dental arches without significant dental intervention. Could this be due in part because of diet? When I lived in Uganda for a summer, I was struck by child after child that had picture perfect teeth just like this boy’s — bright white and perfectly straight. However, I noticed that the closer a village was to a city, the worse the children’s teeth were. Many of the children in Kampala, the capitol of Uganda, actually had numerous rotten teeth, which broke my heart. I quickly found out what the culprit likely was — soda pop. The closer a community was to a town, the more spoiled teeth I saw, as they had more regular access to the sugary carbonated drinks. The farther away from a town, the more beautiful sets of pearly whites I saw, as these kids rarely, if ever, had soda. I talked to a number of Ugandan parents about the soda pop problem and they were shocked that an American product such as 7-up could wreck such havoc on their children’s health!
Looking at the array of “food” in the American family’s kitchen, I am left wondering if indeed our country’s poor diet is in part responsible for our sky high health care costs. Americans spend more than any other country on health care, but have the eighth lowest life expectancy out of 34 developed countries. Japan, on the other hand, spends about $2,900 per person per year on health care (about $5,000 less than Americans) – and yet they have the highest life expectancy among developed nations. If you take another look at all of the seafood the Japanese are eating, along with lots of vegetables, you have to wonder what role diet plays in life-long health care costs.
As you peruse these photos, what stands out to you? How do these photos make you think about your own diet? How do these photos fit or defy stereotypes about other countries? Do any of the photos really surprise you?
Whatever you see and however you see it, you cannot deny this delightful cross-cultural photo essay provides much food for thought, so bon appetite!