My neighbor, Lisa, introduced me to this fascinating book: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. Written for children/young adults, this is a tally of what the world eats. The authors (photographer/writer team) interviewed 25 families in 21 countries; the families are not necessarily typical of every other family in that country, but they do represent a chunk of the population. The countries span the globe and reach from refugee camps through the developing world on into the fully industrialized countries. Islands, mainlands, dessert, mountains–all are included.

The authors are hoping to get all of us to evaluate what we eat across several standards, promoting such websites are Global Footprint and the like (see the book website). Nonetheless, the book is not preachy. Instead, here’s what you come away with (in addition to appreciation for the terrific photography):

  • Some people in the world eat so little!!
  • The amount of packaging differs widely between developing and industrialized countries.
  • Much of the world does not have the variety of food we do.
  • Much of the world spends more time preparing food than we do.
  • Some countries spend much more money than we do on food.
  • Some countries spend much, much, much less money on food.
  • Many people must grow their own food.
  • Many people are much more limited by their nation’s topography: island types eat fish; arctic types eat things like seal; etc.
  • Some groups eat very little fruits and vegetables; others eat massive amounts.
  • Some countries eat much more meat than others.
  • The countries with the highest health care costs per person also tend to have the highest life expectancy rates.
  • Industrialized nations might eat more processed foods but we also tend to have the highest percentage of safe/sanitary water!
  • The industrialized countries consume vast quantities of sugar! (no surprise)

The families interviewed each get their own section. Every so often, the family narratives are broken up by charts depicting life expectancies for the countries researched, pounds of meat consumed, numbers of obese people, etc. There are also recipes sprinkled throughout. All in all, this is a fascinating book to check out from your local library.

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