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Book Review on How the Other Half Eats

Welcome to our new series where council members review a food system book of their choice. Stay tuned for more book reviews and feel free to submit a request!

How the Other Half Eats

By: Priya Fielding-Singh

March 2023 Book Review by Shawn Forquer

How the Other Half Eats by Priya Fielding-Singh, Ph.D. is a wonderful exploration into food and nutritional inequality that grants insights that go against the more common explanations generally given to explain those gaps. While the idea of food deserts (pertaining to the expense of and distance to food being leading barriers), Fielding-Singh goes deeper into what food means to those who consume it rather than settling for external explanations.

I could not help but be enamored from the beginning where Fielding-Singh tells of a below poverty-level mother and daughter, who have many other spending priorities relating to basic needs and quality of life, pull into a Starbucks and share Frappuccinos with one another—an action that at first seems irrational, but because of Fielding-Singh’s aptitude in eliciting empathy, makes more and more sense as the book goes on. Her work pays special attention to the dynamic between mothers and their children pertaining to food practices within and outside of homes.

For instance, Fielding-Singh explains how buying cheaper and less nutritious food, getting takeout, or pulling into a drive-through is not simply done out of availability and cost, but that these are things that mothers can afford to say yes to when it comes to meeting a practical and emotional desire of their children. Mothers on the other half, shall we say, who have more money have more means of saying yes more often to bigger expenses for their children may feel more comfortable denying those children from unhealthy food because they’ve met wants and needs in other ways. Getting through the read to understand Fielding-Singh’s assessment and conclusions after 160 intimate family surveys is perspective-changing and well worthwhile.