“À table!” is what I heard every evening of my childhood as my mother tried to get all of us to the dinner table. My parents were adamant about having family dinners and it was truly a rare occasion that we missed one. This was only a small part of growing up in a French household in California. We celebrated “La galette des rois” as well as Thanksgiving and celebrated April Fools day with “des poissons d’avril,” which are paper fish that you sneakily tape to people’s backs. Yet while we adapted to the American environment, once I stepped into my house I was back in France. This was clearly visible in even something as basic as our eating habits. My mother would make quiche, soufflés, coq au vin, ratatouille, and we often ate salads or a mix of vegetables with baguette and cheese for dinner.
When I was in elementary school, back in the 1990s, my teachers used to call me the watermelon and tomato girl because my mother would pack me whole tomatoes and slices of watermelon for lunch. In elementary school I was already becoming aware of the differences in what I ate and what my classmates ate. While vegetables and fruits were a main component of my lunch bag, most of my classmates ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, gogurts, lunchables, goldfish, and chicken nuggets. This dichotomy between my eating habits and those of my peers only became intensified as I got older and started to see more dimensions to the relationships different cultures have to food. In my own life, I noticed my mother bought much more fresh food and bought it more often than my peers’ parents. As for those family dinners, my friends tended to eat on the go most nights. As I got older, I became more and more interested in how food affects our health and experimented on myself by becoming vegetarian, trying a gluten-free and dairy-free diet and briefly dabbling with a raw foods diet.
All these are individual choices influenced by culture but they are also indicative of a larger picture that includes agribusiness, lobbies, subsidies, and other public policy implications. Since one third of Americans are now obese, I don’t believe we can solely look at eating habits and cultural customs to explain this obesity crisis. This crisis is not only limited to the United States as “an estimated 500 million adults worldwide are obese and 1.5 billion are overweight or obese”. This kind of epidemic has multiple dimensions that contribute to it and throughout classes and personal research I have begun to formulate a comprehensive picture of the factors that contribute to this global obesity crisis. A large component of this crisis are the food companies, who have known for a while now that salty, sugary, fatty foods, in the quantities that we consume them, are not good for us. Yet, consumers are eating more and more snack foods and snacking instead of eating real meals. Along with seeing this phenomenon in my own life, having been a Development Studies major at UC Berkeley, I became more and more informed about the disparities between developed and developing nations, especially concerning food justice. For example, this current worldwide food crisis is partially due to American corn and soy industries who funnel the crops they grow into feeding cattle and other animals headed for slaughter and into creating ethanol. Due to farmers producing corn and soy, grain prices skyrocketed. This blog attempts to cover this corporate overhaul of agriculture and eating habits and the “snack crimes” that are committed everyday.