There is perhaps no more universally heart-rending image than that of a hungry child. Depictions of issues as disparate as urban poverty, environmental catastrophe, and an inadequate education system invoke the hungry child as a shorthand for injustice and absolute wrongness. Such images suggest that hunger is a universal experience – all people hunger the same, and hunger itself is a sensation that everyone can equally imagine and experience. In this post, I want to historicize and contextualize this idea of the naturalness, simplicity, and the apoliticality of hunger. While “feeding the hungry” might seem like a viable moral imperative, this approach toward resolving hunger is itself a product of a specific political and economic moment; conceptualizing hunger as apolitical,…

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Prevailing voices in the public and health sciences state that lower class people are much more likely to become “overweight” compared to their “middle” and “high class” counterparts. In this sense, the so-called “obesity epidemic” becomes inseparable from the discussion of class, and the equation remains clear: “the poor are fat and the fat are poor.” In order to explain the link between class and body weight, people generally refer to two assumptions about poor people: they have less access to healthy food and they don’t know which food is healthy. Over the last decades, studies that explore the social determinants of health and illness in populations (“social-epidemiology”) have particularly discussed this relation between food and fatness as a class…

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While the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program in which low-income men constructed trails and lodges in parks, built public roads, and otherwise improved the American environment, lasted just under a decade, it has remained an incredibly popular agency in American consciousness. Organizations push its memory, the National Park Service celebrates its past, and Americans write a surprising number of editorials about how we should revive the program. This is an unusual amount of love for a social welfare program, most of which are loathed and stigmatized in the U.S. Why are so many welfare programs villainized, even when they include a work component, while the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) invokes such pride and nostalgia? There are several reasons…

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Just as the field of food history has achieved prominence in recent years it is true to say the same of popular interest in Native foods. Around the country, Native heirloom crops frequently show up at farmers’ markets. Interested consumers can even purchase produce in the form of a monthly TSA (“Tribally Supported Agriculture”) share. Gardeners across the world can order seeds to grow Ute squash or Cherokee “Trail of Tears” pole beans to plant in their backyards. In southern Arizona, O’odham farmers are raising tepary beans, sixty-day corn, and harvesting ciollim buds, all of which you can purchase online. Almost any grocer in the United States, from the grungiest co-op to the swankiest supermarket, stocks their shelves with ancient…

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Weight Watchers first launched an online program “customized just for guys” in 2007, one of their advertisements proclaimed, “Real men don’t diet.” This counterintuitive declaration evoked the questions that animate my current research. I’m analyzing how the consumer culture constructs notions of “real men” through depictions of food and the body, particularly during moments of intense social change and anxiety. As you might have guessed, commercial weight loss programs, developed for men in the early decades of the new millennium, provide ample evidence. Men have made up a small but consistent 10 percent of the Weight Watchers membership since the company’s founding in 1963. Throughout the decades, program materials, cookbooks, and magazines have each addressed men. For example, the 1973…

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