What the world ate, what it eats now, and for how much

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From the book "Hungry Planet".

I know the book is not new, but... photos from Peter Menzel's and Faith D'Aluisio's very successful "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" 2005 book have been making the rounds in neverending email forwards over the last few months, perhaps jumpstarted again by the current food prices situation. If you're not familiar with it, what Menzel and D'Aluisio did was to meet and photograph families in 24 countries around the world to compose a photo essay of their weekly food purchases, how much they spent on average, and a couple of favorite recipes added for good measure.

If you didn't get the memo email, and even if you did, you may be interested in checking out Time Magazine's online version, which includes three slideshows: the first two (one and two) document the families posing with their weekly goods, and the third shows the different ways in which they carry and prepare the food.

At the time it was published, the focus of the book seems to have been more on the effects of globalization and trade on diets, showing how U.S. markets and homes included exotic foods from around the world and, conversely, how fast food had solidly established itself all over the world. But by the time the email made it to my inbox a few months ago, my eyes fixated on how much money each family spent per week to feed themselves.

It's such a powerful document that, ever since then, I've been wondering if the authors wouldn't update the essay to illustrate the changes caused by the increase in food prices over the last months, from how the composition of weekly purchases have changed, to how much it costs these families to get fed. Menzel and D'Aluisio have probably moved on to other projects (here's a 2007 interview with them), but maybe an aid agency more focused on this issue (like the World Food Programme?) could find a way to partner or collaborate to put something like this together in the form of an awareness campaign. I'd love to see it.


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