Food Pyramids and What They Tell Us About Who We Are

'Eating Right' Around the World

I found our reading assignment quite interesting. Regional food pyramids as well as what their creators believe is the best nutritional advice is fascinating. To whom is nutritional information best suited? Is it the poor, underprivileged, and marginalized or only those who have the privileged of choosing a variety of foods to eat? Food pyramids speak not only of nutrition, but station.

Let's look at the food pyramid of Haiti, as an example. There are no assumptions that this image's viewers know anything of nutrition. It conveys its message without words, and in doing so it transcends not only requirements of literacy, but also language. True, there might be social connotations associated with the imagery (such as the house, lock, and fire), but this food pyramid is more readily accessible to a larger, and thereby less exclusive, group of people.

The German food pyramid is significantly more complicated. If the presentation didn't explain to me how to read it, I doubt I could have easily figured it out. The image assumes much of the reader and offers little in the way of instruction. For one, it's designed to be viewed in three-dimensions. Unlike the Haiti food pyramid, there is an assumption that one can interpret a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object, and the presentation, if not scientific, is definitely bordering on schematic. Could someone from Haiti understand this pyramid easily, ignoring the language barrier? I'd imagine not. The German food pyramid either assumes it's viewers have a certain level of technical understanding, or simply doesn't wish to instruct those who don't. In either case, individuals could be marginalized.

These are but two examples from a rather long list of food pyramids, but they do reflect the social assumptions of those who create them. These pyramids state who deserves to be informed of good nutrition in a society just as much as the standards the pyramids' creators believe is 'eating right'.