Playing With Your Food and Food Politics

      No Comments on Playing With Your Food and Food Politics

With fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats set at premium prices and junk foods disproportionally priced relative to them, it is no surprise that consumers do not eat healthier. In his book The Real Cost of Cheap Food, Michael Carolan’s views cheap food as a “shorthand for understandings for grocery store prices that don’t reflect foods total costs or discussion about food security that center exclusively on bolstering yields…while neglecting broader social, political, nutritional, economic, and ecological concerns” (Carolan, 3). His chapter on the link between cheap food and obesity was really interesting to read, in particular the obesity-hunger paradox where the growing number of obese individuals are in fact the ones that are malnourished. Carolan notes that there is no serious shortage of food, and instead shares similar views as Michael Pollan regarding the harmful obsession over nutrition and the sole focus of it distracting people from the problem of “substituting mis-nourishment for malnourishment” (Carolan, 58). By this, he makes a compelling argument that the relationship between health and the food that we eat goes beyond individual decisions.


Rather than providing healthy food, the food industry has been able to deceive consumers by advertising their products as nutritiously enhanced despite replacing the truly nutritious parts with cheaper alternatives. It is concerning to see the downward health trends Carolan points out and how food companies maximize the number of low cost sweeteners and additives into food products in the place of more expensive ingredients to keep production costs down. Julie Guthman’s essay Why Michael Pollan makes me want to eat Cheetos acknowledges that while obesity is a concerning issue in the U.S., the stigma behind obesity has been used as an instrument for “purveyors of diet foods, fitness centers, and pharmaceuticals, to contribute to the false idea that diets work, thereby increasing the market for such goods and services” (Guthman, 1). The food industry, working hand in hand with lucrative nutrition companies, both rely upon cheap food policies to continue pushing out cheap food products countered by the promotion of diet books, “essential” nutrition enhancement products, and other related nutritional services on the market, neither with the intention of improving public health. You were probably taught not to play with your own food, so why would you let someone else?


While I understand that cheap foods are readily available to the masses, in particular the impoverished, the market economy ultimately plays a big part in shaping consumer choices. I, along with Guthman and Carolan, criticize Pollan on placing the responsibility of health on unhealthy people instead of examining the bigger social, political, or cultural factors at play. The biggest reason being that people do not have access to affordable healthy food where food giants have the discretion to replace more costly healthy ingredients with artificial additives and control market prices. I feel as though health goes beyond individual responsibility and a part of the problem lies within the larger societal and political arena that is dictating the direction of food and health with prices. I am frustrated with the human element, particular the selfish, hidden intention of cutting cost for profit and to take advantage of various health trends. The constant overlap of human and non-human systems is where I begin to realize that the concept of food and health are not the problem of resources or technology, but rather a human induced problem of playing food politics.


Works Cited
Carolan, Michael. The Real Cost of Cheap Food. Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Print.
Guthman, Julie. “Can’t Stomach It: How Michael Pollan Et Al. Made Me Want to Eat Cheetos.” Gastronomica 7.3 (2007): 75-79. Web. 13 July 2017.

Leave a Reply