How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America by Priya Fielding-Singh
“How the Other Half Eats” takes an in-depth look at the American family’s complicated relationship with food. Through extensive field research conducted at dinner tables across America, interviewing families spanning the range of socio-economic backgrounds, Priya Fielding-Singh paints a portrait of both inequity and commonality.
All parents want what’s best for their children. Yet Fielding-Singh finds that what is “best” is highly subjective and greatly impacted by one’s economic status. Splurging on a coffee shop treat or giving in to a child’s request for junk food can be seen as a waste of money or an unhealthy habit by some, but for families working multiple jobs and drowning in debt, these things can be something totally different: An all too infrequent opportunity to say “yes” to a child’s request.
When so much is economically out of reach, parents view things completely differently. Conversely, households with strong economic stability have the capacity to worry about a child’s supposed excessive weight gain; an issue a family living paycheck to paycheck may not have the bandwidth to see as a concern.
Moving beyond the topic of food inequality in America, Fielding-Singh also highlights the enduring role mothers typically assume as the parental figure who bears the psychological weight of family meals and their children’s health and eating habits. Despite many advances in gender equality, this entrenched legacy endures. The burden spans the socio-economic divide impacting most mothers. While not brought forward at the outset of Fielding-Singh’s work, this runs as a larger theme undergirding the whole book.
“How the Other Half Eats” opens a window on the scope of food inequality in America and can serve as a nice starting point for engaging in conversations about our varied and unique experiences with food security and insecurity, family meals and lingering gender roles.
“How the Other Half Eats” is the January selection for the Books & Bites book group. Read the book and then join Books & Bites at the Blaine Library 1 p.m. Friday, January 19 for a time of community and lively conversation. For more information, visit bit.ly/3vjtCAJ.
Reviewed by Jonathan Jakobitz, branch manager of Blaine Public Library, Whatcom County Library System
(Originally published in The Northern Light, Wednesday, January 10, 2024.)