Food Disparity Matters

The concern for food disparity has skyrocketed in the past decade. Gradually, more and more foodstuffs are going to the waste despite the fact that hunger still haunts many parts in the world, including the U.S. On top of that, the poor are consuming extremely unhealthy diets while the riches aren’t getting what many of them have expected with the higher price tag they are paying for either.
Therefore, an investigation on food disparity around us matters. What are the determinants and affects that drive our food consumptions? How do our consuming behaviors relate to the issues of contemporary food disparities? In Theresa Brennan’s article “The Transmission of Affect”, she defines the word “affect” as the “interaction with other people and an environment” (Brennan, 3). As one steps into a grocery store, visceral responses are aroused immediately: In a well-decorated grocery market, the tone is usually warm and bright. The color of the products is vibrant. The posters on the wall often suggest you to eat more whole grains breads (symbolizing nature and raw food). Stickers on each rack mark whether the product is organic or locally produced. The spray of water on the vegetables and fruits make them look even fresher and more delicious. (It is hilarious that the spray of water does not prolong, but actually shortens the preservation time of fruits and vegetables!)

Snip 2017-03-27 07.08.39 Furthermore, you probably would never find rot food in these stores. Indeed, you can hardly find blemishes on fruits. While such meticulous selection suits consumers’ cult of perfection, “the demand for ‘perfect’ fruit and veg means much is discarded, damaging the climate and leaving people hungry” (Goldenberg, 2016). “By one government tally, about 60m tonnes of produce worth about $160bn (£119bn), is wasted by retailers and consumers every year – one third of all foodstuffs” (Goldenberg, 2016).

In contrary to this food waste is the appalling fact of food disparity. When you enter into shabby bodegas in other boroughs, you would have an utterly different consuming experience. The affects can be less pleasant: The light is dark. The space is highly compacted. There are few fresh fruits and vegetable options. And you are very likely to find blemishes on many of the fruits. that People with lower socioeconomic status, who tend to be less conscious of their nutritional balance, consume less fruits and vegetables; hence the small bodegas carry less options; then people with lower SES are more unaccessible to healthier food… It becomes an endless loop.

Snip 2017-03-27 07.07.49.png

Genetically modified foods is another sub-issue in the food disparity realm. Like the Food Inc. narrated, “The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000” (Food Inc). Food producers in the past decades have turned towards producing genetically modified foods for higher profit. Genetically modified foods can be easier to produce, in terms of lower cost, higher yield, much better taste, and being more appealing to the eye. As mentioned before, visual affect is a huge factor for consumers’ consumption choices.
However, many contemporary scientists argue that genetically modified food benefits the producers at the cost of harming consumers’ health. While genetically modified foodstuffs are strictly prohibited in Europe, restrictions on GMOs in the U.S. are loose. Quoting from the documentary Food Inc that screened in 2008, “They fought not to label genetically modified foods; and now 70% of processed food in the supermarket has some genetically modified ingredient” (Food Inc). Almost a decade later, has the conditions really changed? Indeed, are we having more secure foodstuff because of the contemporary labelling? Or are we actually more blind because of them?
This is an issue that affects both the rich and the poor, but the poor more significantly. Most if not all luxury grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, tries to label most of their products as organic. That doesn’t mean all the foods the rich are consuming are organic and not genetically modified. The legal term of “organic” does not necessarily coincide with our popular beliefs.Snip 2017-03-19 21.39.52

But it does mean is that the riches are more aware of what they are eating. And for sure the overpriced foodstuffs that they are eating contain a lot less hormones and antibiotic comparing to the non-labelled products. The poor, on the other hand, are usually not given a choice between organic and genetically modified foods at their community grocery stores. And most often the poor are all so not educated to know or care about this difference.
All in all, food disparity is created by the wealth and education gap between the riches and the poor, and the nature of the capital market. Food consumption is way beyond the foodstuffs that people are consuming, it is about people’s life expectancy. While the riches expect to adopt fine lifestyles by shopping or eating at the fancier places, the lifestyle the poor has been forced to accepted. Borrowing Stringfellow’s words, “Perhaps better understanding these interconnected processes will allow us to make much more informed political decisions regarding the environmental and ecological concerns of today and those of the future” (Stringfellow, 24). Fighting over food disparity and food insecurity requires much more collaborative efforts by the public than just making food donations to the poor.


Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004. PDF.

Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan. Movie One, 2008. Netflix.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Half of All US Food Produce Is Thrown Away, New Research Suggests.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 13 July 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

Stringfellow, Kim. Greetings from the Salton Sea: folly and intervention in the southern California landscape, 1905-2005. Chicago: The Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2011. Web.


~ by xz849iris on March 27, 2017.

2 Responses to “Food Disparity Matters”

  1. I thought this one should be titled the “best of the world”, this is a topic that isn’t really talked upon in day to day conversation but it had really good affective writing which kept me as a reader really intrigued. Not only that, it had really great pictures which captivated my attention. It also had a great balance of informal and formal writing that didn’t make me feel like I was reading a academically based piece.

  2. I enjoyed this post the most: because I felt that through your investigation and research, you came to understand more deeply what is at stake in the Whole Foods complex. You summarized the contrast between shiny beautiful appearances of food, and the reality that the marketing attempts to conceal. In an age where food is wasted but also packaged to be sterile, exquisite objects, Iris’ writing illustrates the precarious state that low-income people are situated in. The quotes are incorporated well, also.

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