Blog #3 What you eat

by Judy Ziyi Gu

My ecology’s focus is on a potential food desert in Queens. Whether the neighborhood of Maspeth hits the mark of “food desert” or not, it is important for me to look into it because inequality is so deeply ingrained in urban planning that it would indirectly control the food supply and nutritional health of the thousands of people that live in the area. We must consider why certain groups of people get to eat organic, shop local, and purchase ingredients that are foreign and exotic, instead of having to buy mass-produced, chemical foods, with additives that are equally exotic because they are not fit for consumption or are not even readable by humans.

Investigations like Food, Inc. (Kenner) and Fed Up are definitely important studies of the US food industry, they go deeply into the cruel and unsavory processes of the agroindustrial complex in the US. However they don’t always explain what happens between corporate production and consumer choices. There are numerous steps between farm and table (the purpose of the farm-to-table movement), and during these steps many things will affect what we eat and our health. Urban planning and supermarkets are just two of them, but they cannot be overlooked.

A food desert or a potential one is marked one by excess and lack. Make no mistake to think that there is a lack of food in a food desert. No, there are multitudes of bodegas, canned food, and white bread. What is missing is accessible healthy, fresh food. The produce you find in a food desert will likely have blemishes or signs that they were not the cream of the crop or a priority.


When residents of a food desert rely on bodegas and subpar supermarkets, they have infinitely less options than those living in a more affluent, high-access area. It is not only the matter of choice that matters here; even when the residents are aware of nutritional balance and healthy diets, their limited options in the area and their limited schedule will either force them to seek food from a source far away from their neighborhood or continue to consume things that are not good for them. How is that reality fair? How could it not matter?

Why should we dig deeper into how mundane settings of streets and supermarkets play into the daily diet and health of Maspeth residents? Jane Bennett writes, “the image of… thoroughly instrumentalized matter feeds human hubris and our earth-destroying fantasies of conquest and consumption. It does so by preventing us from detecting (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling) a fuller range of nonhuman powers circulating around and within human bodies. These material powers, which can aid or destroy, enrich or disable, ennoble of degrade us…” (Bennett 5) At this point the material powers circulating around food deserts are disabling and degrading the residents of food deserts without their realization. That alone deserves attention.

The setting and mundanity of streets can move humans, shape humans, poison humans, with its affect. As Brian Massumi writes, “The body doesn’t just absorb pulses or discrete stimulations; it infolds contexts, it infolds volitions and cognitions that are nothing if not situation” (Massumi 30). The context that bodies in a food desrt absorb then are that their health does not matter as much, or that it is ok to not pay attention to what you eat, because the only things that are available are foods that are not nutritious or beneficial. It is my job investigate how this affect was constructed in two supermarkets.


Works Cited

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant matter: a political ecology of things. Durham: Duke U Press, 2010. Print.

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

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Cultural Critique, no. 31, 1995, pp. 23–43.



~ by zyjudes on April 3, 2017.

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