J500 Media and the Environment

Food for thought by denzylj
March 25, 2008, 7:50 pm
Filed under: Food + Health, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , , ,

A man at an Easter dinner table, no doubt emboldened by quaffing copious amounts of Napa Valley cabernet, proceeded to start a food fight. He must have had his fill and thought what better way to cap celebrations than by tossing his leftovers at someone sitting opposite him. I can’t say I blame him. After being fed a Hollywood diet of warped humor where food fight scenes have become the staple in slapstick comedy routines, it’s no wonder he thought a bit of flying celery and carrots would go down well. It would be spoken of for months to come, the pièce de résistance that outshone the au gratin potato bake. It was just like going to the movies and clutching our popcorn-filled bellies in the aisles as we laugh at new meanings given to having spaghetti braids.

Thankfully this kind of scene wasn’t played out. But what it did bring into sharp focus how wasteful people have become – that images of a family in Chad living off $1.23 a week are a far cry from the relative comforts of families here in the United States and elsewhere where more leads to excesses like food fights and obesity. So the study of families around the planet and their one week dietary habits made for some interesting visual comparisons and reaffirmed the gap between rich and poor nations. Reading some of the comments that followed, it seems that some people are uncomfortable addressing such global inequalities and in shouldering guilt, and responsibility even for helping to raise the standard of living of the indigent. How and what people to choose to eat is their concern, just so long as it’s sustainable. But the next time they toss a half empty plate of food away or think it funny watching or having a food fight, I hope they at least spare a thought for poverty-stricken kids so desperate they’d happily be rolling alongside on the floor, not in fits of mirth, but grasping at every precious morsel thrown about with reckless abandon.



4 Comments so far
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I’ve never found food fights funny (with the exception of “Animal House” and that was mostly for Belushi’s facial expressions). Fortunately, though, when most Americans have food fights, they’re not really using food–just, as Michael Pollan calls them, “food-like substances.” So I’m all for them fligging as much high fructose corn syrup at each other as possible–better to have it on your face than in your liver, I suppose. Most of that “food” would not help the starving children, anyway (I would never send them Doritos or Jell-o with tiny marshmallows, for instance), but you’re right and I definitely get your point.

But what is it about cultural wastefulness? Surely you’ve seen the footage from the annual Spanish tomato fights; other cultures have a similar tradition…

To me, the biggest issue is that we do have enough food to feed everyone in the world–it’s a matter of governments not working together, competing economies not collaborating, wealthy nations not seeing the “value” in the communities that need the most help. I know you know all of this…

I appreciated your point that we need to be much more mindful of our wastefulness. Maybe the Twinkies you shove up someone’s nose wouldn’t really help the starving child in Africa, but it’s the mere gesture of being so reckless.

(This is the part in the movie where I would turn directly to the camera and say: “Having said all of that…FOOD FIGHT!”) 😉 Anyway, interesting post, Denzyl.

Comment by rarab

Thank you, Denzyl, for shedding light on behavioral shifts. As an immigrant to this country, I have never really understood chopping down trees for Christmas or wasting eggs on Easter egg hunts. I believe food is sacred and trees are sacred, too. I really am not judging those who do indulge, it just has never made sense to me.
You shed such compelling light on how this food we take for granted could be used in other ways. But in order to do that, we have to embrace a new way of looking at what we have and how we use it.

Comment by j500

Glad you see it my way Ranjit, but let me weigh in with something more and at the risk of sounding all so righteous, I think whether it’s high fructose corn syrup, tomatoes or anything else that wouldn’t be considered healthy food, the point is is that whether it’s the US or Spain, you show to the world a culture of mass consumption that suggests it’s OK to waste. And when you’re in a situation of having absolutely nothing to eat, watching people halfway across the world toss cream pies at each other in the name of humor, must surely tickle the funny bone. Lord knows, it’s not the only bones on their bodies you can see.

Ranjit, my sarcasm is not directed at you or the sentiments you express. Guess I just feel strongly about dire poverty in the face of obscene wealth. I’ve traveled by cargo plane laden with food and medical supplies to an African country, whose president was in denial of a crisis. I’ve seen malnourished babies and mothers too weak to swot the flies from their faces. I take comfort in the fact that I have the means to survive deprived to so many, but grapple with my own tendency to waste.

Bring on the food fight should take on the form of fighting global poverty, not flaunting our excesses.


PS: Was about to send this off when I saw Simran’s comment, so a quick word. I think it’s helpful to Americans getting different cultural perspectives. Some people are very insulated and alternative insights can be useful in re-shaping attitudes about wealth, privilege, waste and poverty.


Comment by denzylj

You are absolutely right. I am trying to sound balanced here but I really feel just as strongly about this as you do. Starvation in the face of so much global abundance is wrong. I know we are better than this.

Comment by j500

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