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Social Determinants of Food Consumption

Discuss about the Food Consumption and Wastage for Chemical Fertilizers.

This essay is based on my reflections from the week-long food diary that I maintained to understand the different aspects of consumption of food. I have tried to argue that our food consumption is contingent upon the social location of the individual. Individual and group food practices and choices do not exist in isolation but are influenced by the broader socio-economic factors. I have also discussed about the theme of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in the food and what are my views on them.

The maintenance of a week-long has inspired me to delve into my regular patterns of food consumption. It has made me realize that the changes I need to make in my everyday food habits. Recording my food journey through the maintenance of a food diary has provoked me to reflect upon the things I eat and its reasons and implications in the larger society. Food consumption of a person is contingent on the broader cultural framework. Culture and social location of a person have strong influence on the consumption pattern of an individual (Chapman et al. 2018).I have discussed on the themes of the source of my food where I have talked whether I reflect about where the food is sourced from. There are discussion on the factors on whether I adopt ethical means in the consumption of food, my views on food waste and the ways I deal with food waste. There are also discussion on what motivates me to consume fast food in the context of culinary tourism, whether I recognize myself as a food and the rising culture of posting food pictures on social media.

As evident from my food diary, I prefer to eat at home, however I have a deep inclination for both fast food and ethnic food. However, I would agree that the composition of ethnic food in my weekly diet is not sufficient. The only ethnic food that I consume regularly is Makkaboos Dakku that is a rice and tomato gray preparation, a remarkable traditional dish in Kuwait. I usually do not reflect on the source of my food. In other words, it is not every day that I think about where is my food coming from. However, whilst purchasing the raw materials for the pancake and noodles, I became interested to know how the food is being produced. Weis in his work on political ecology approach to food found that people’s interaction to food in wealthy countries is governed by the international opaque market from the big supermarkets to the super-sized meals found in the fast-food restaurants. My inability to reflect upon and identify the food I will be consuming can be explained through Weir’s arguments. According to Weir, the consumers of food have limited knowledge about their consumed items regarding the network of economic and social relations that take place in the manufacture, production and the consumption of food. He has argued that consumers view food as unpolitical. He argues that the growing productivity and the meatification witnessed in the diets are normalized in the industrialized nations across the world. Although, there is discussion of the internal issues, there is hardly any intervention to realize that the external input are quite greater to produce the required result. Based on Weir’s arguments, I realize that the contemporary nature of capitalism has led to a kind of agricultural loop where the greater productivity gains are facilitated by an intensive amount of biological input. Food system is linked to the change in climate. 

Theme of Pesticides and Chemical Fertilizers in Food

It is found that intentionality informs our perception or for categorization, it can be food as complex and it is the perception that would shape their approach for the food. This perception can change or transform with experience. Weir has spoken about the downstream of pollution into the environment (Weis. 2013). The waste disposal from the industries and factories along with feedlots exert massive pressure on the environment. The excess amount of chemicals, nutrients and pharmaceuticals permeate into the soil and diffuse into the ecosystem. For the ecosystem, the largest burden emanates from eutrophication. For example, the Giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Based on my food diary, I would confess that I do not take into account these factors during the purchase or consumption of food.

A quick look through my weekly food diary reveals that I have not been consuming organic food in a proper manner. I am more inclined towards heavy foods that are rich in fats and carbohydrates. However, some of the fruits that I consume on a regular basis, are organically produced in my aunt’ kitchen garden. Regarding the consumption of organic food, Carolan (2012) opines that more women than men and women with families are more inclined towards organic food. Therefore, it can be stated that it is because of my gender that I am not much inclined to organic food unlike my mother and aunt.

I belong to a middle-income family and we need to be careful while making the expenditure on food. There is a strong link between the consumption of food and the different social factors. This can be witnessed in the following illustration. For example, Netty prefers to consume high-quality, organically-produced food, however, there is a wide gap between her income and her inspired lifestyle. This has made Netty quite exasperated. Despite, her poor economic condition, Netty chooses to purchase ethically produced food, as it is compatible with her worldview about food. Netty’s illustration underscore that if there is a disparity between one’s economic status and the desired lifestyle, there is a huge burden on the person to work extra miles to meet that demand. Bordieu’s concept of food practices and class is a potent theoretical framework to understand this complex relationship between food consumption and the social location of the person (Bourdieu, Nice, and Bennett. 2018). For Bordieu social classes represents the total volume of capital possessed by groups or individuals. Bordieu further argues that one kind of capital can be converted into another kind of capital can be converted into another kind of capital. Symbolic capital for Bordieu has the value only when the dominant class legitimizes it. Healthy eating is considered an important attribute and aspiration for the middle-class. Consumption of an unhealthy diet amounts to shame and stigma for the middle-class and therefore, unhealthy eating and junk food lacks symbolic value. Bordieu notion of habitus talks that social practice has a logic of practice. This logic of practice underlines about the class position of the individual and the range of capital available to the individual. The illustration of Netty and Bordieu’s concept of the habitus is insightful in reflecting on my food habits. My food diary comprises of food items that are mostly have a global appeal. This may be attributed to my upbringing. Both my parents love visiting restaurants and trying out food from different continents. I went to an international school where we used to have food festivals that featured food from different nations. This exposure helped me to develop a taste for waffles, pancakes and other items in my food diary. Long’s (2004) understanding of exploratory eating becomes an important framework for my love for cuisines from different parts of the world. He argues that exploratory eating can be a personal choice, a statement of individuality or a marker of cultural and social capital. In this context, Newman and Elton (2017), and Chapman’s (2018) contention becomes important. He is of the opinion that consumption of food is not a simple act of satiating our hunger. On the contrary, it defines ourselves and is emblematic of the milestones in our lives. Although, I prefer to have my snacks and a fruit while watching TV, my mother ensures that during lunch and dinner, the entire family should enjoy it together. This is reminiscent of Lenore’s argument on commensality that it is an important manifestation of human sociality.

Personal Reflections on Food Diary

On reflection of my food diary, it can be found that I consume food that are exotic like waffles, pancakes, egg noodles to name a few. It has been argued that culture that is one of the most important aspects of food consumption helps in distinguishing one kind of food from the other. It is the otherness associated with foreign culture that renders the food its exotic appeal. Tourism is based on otherness as opposed to the objective view of the relationship of the subject with the object. It is argued that the shifting from the international to the national and the familiar to the unfamiliar has been instrumental in introducing the food to the American public. It is further argued that edibility, palatability and exoticness popularly marked as cultural categories are in reality cultural constructs and contextual. Therefore, all these factors may unconsciously play an instrumental role during the consumption of exotic or food with global appeal.

I would consider myself as a foodie as it is clearly manifested in respect to the variety of food I consume. The term foodie was coined in the year 1982 by the British magazine Harper & Queen (Long 2004). Later foodie was described as a person who takes immense interest in food and loves discussing about food. However, scholars argue that the term is subject to open interpretations. Earlier the world gourmet was much in momentum to define a person who has predilection for food. Despite the set of alternatives that have been suggested, the term foodie continues to remain a popular choice. There has also been food movements in the contemporary times are strikingly undemocratic.

I recognize myself as a foodie as I have often post food pictures on Instagram and Facebook. I recognize this practice in the broader context of the rise of upper-middle class and propertied class who swears by sophistication and believes in a cosmopolitan lifestyle. The posting of food pictures on social media further underline on the concept of lifestyle for sale. For example, in United States, the Food Network  drastically transformed the landscape of food consumption. It was found that cooking and food became popular because of consumerist aspect. The rise of the cooking shows on television, gourmet magazines and the burgeoning of chic products like bottled water, balsamic vinegar and designer olive oils became a mark of consumer entertainment. It profoundly underscore on the market-driven impact of food consumption for the people. The presence of the images of large number of food on the social media networks creates seduction and inspires the viewers and in my case the followers to pursue a specific recipe or visit the restaurant from which I have purchased the food. It is found that advertisements and the proliferation in food shows targets a specific audience who are usually the hip-elites and the cutting-edge viewers who wants to remain a step ahead in their lifestyle choice.

Changes in Everyday Food Habits

Being born in a Kuwait family, our culture and religion prescribes us to consume non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian food except for the food that is considered as halal in the religion of Islam. Therefore, I do not practice either vegetarianism or veganism.

I would confess that I have not placed much thought during the purchase or consumption of food. My mother purchases the raw materials of the food from the local market. Sometimes we choose to purchase anti-biotic free meat as insisted by my Aunt who completely swears by ethically produced food items. On Tuesday and Friday, I consume salad made by organic vegetables purchased from the market nearby. There is no specific reason about consuming organic vegetables on those two particular days. Regarding the consumption of organic food, Carolan (2012) opines that organic food are consumed by people who have a greater consciousness about their health, have a pro-environment attitude and at least belong to the middle-income group if not from the affluent section of the society. On similar lines, Long (2004) argues that consumption of organic food underscore the relationship between the relationship of humans with nature. In my case, a pro-environment or healthy food habits might not be the primary reason. My mother and my aunt both are avid consumers of organic vegetables. My aunt has her own organic kitchen garden and she influenced my mother to develop a pro-environment[1] attitude and consume organic vegetables. I do not like the taste of organic vegetables that much. It was only on the insistence of my mother on Tuesday and Friday that I had zucchini, yellow bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and purple cabbage salad. Regarding the gender dimension of the consumption of organic food, Carolan argues that it is women especially women with families who have greater propensity to purchase organic vegetables. Therefore, I now understand better the predilection for organic food by my mother and aunt. Similarly, I realize that I need to more health conscious and develop a pro-environment attitude.

My mother to not waste food has taught me as it is quite difficult for the farmers to produce food. Still if there leftovers, I would keep the food in the refrigerator and would consume the next day.

As I have discussed earlier, in our family we are discouraged to waste food but in case the food has went beyond the expiry date or food has become stale then I would rather throw away the food. It is because consumption of stale food can cause long-term damage to the body 

Conclusion

The above discussion  based on my food dairy highlights that I am a foodie and my predilection for posting food images on social media is to be contextualized in the larger food movement of consumption of determining the symbolic capital of a person. Because of my cultural values and social location, I do not specifically eat vegetarian food and vegan food. I do not waste my food and in case the food becomes stale, then only I would throw away the food.. I do not particularly follow an ethical food consumption practice, however I have been inspired by the literature I have come across that ethically sourced food are pro-environment and quite healthy. As propounded by Bordieu, food consumed by an individual is reflective of the social class and therefore, the frugality exhibited by the lower-income group is reflective of their lack of economic capital to purchase specific kind of food and sustain that lifestyle. I would confess that while purchasing a food I do not pay attention to where the food has been sourced. However, each item we consume has a history. People consuming food hardly pay attention about where the agro-inputs that went in producing the food, during what time and in what ways were the food harvested, through which routes the food traversed from the land to the retail destinations and apart from all these the important question is how these food affect the environment, biodiversity and energy consumption. Therefore, keeping a record of my weekly food consumption enabled me to reflect on a range of factors and issues that I would not have intervened otherwise.

References

Bourdieu, Pierre, Richard Nice, and Tony Bennett. 2018. n.d. Distinction.

Carolan, Michael. 2012. The Sociology Of Food And Agriculture. London: Routledge.

Chapman, Sasha et al. 2018. "Manufacturing Taste." The Walrus. Retrieved April 7, 2018 (https://thewalrus.ca/manufacturing-taste/).

Helstosky, Carol. 2015. The Routledge History Of Food. London: Routledge.

Long, Lucy M. 2004. Culinary Tourism. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Newman, Lenore, and Sarah Elton. 2017. Speaking In Cod Tongues. Regina: University of Regina.

Weis, Anthony. 2013. The Ecological Hoofprint. London: Zed Books.

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