cover image How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America

How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America

Priya Fielding-Singh. Little, Brown Spark, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-42726-5

Sociologist Fielding-Singh debuts with an enlightening examination of how socioeconomic inequities affect eating habits and health. Drawing on research she conducted as a Stanford University PhD student, Fielding-Singh profiles four families living in San Francisco’s Bay Area and documents their food choices and limitations over the course of several years. Nyah Baker, a Black single mother of two teenage daughters, relies on disability checks, payday loans, and occasional sex work to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Julie Cain, the wife of a corporate lawyer, spends roughly $900 per month on food for her family of four. Fielding-Singh reveals that an impoverished parent will spend more than she can afford on a luxurious meal because food is one of the few pleasures she can give her children, and that racial stereotypes affect ideas about healthy food choices (“There’s a reason why people sing the praises of kale but not collard greens”). Mealtimes are particularly complex for middle-class mothers balancing work and household duties, Fielding-Singh notes, while Blacks and Mexican Americans haven’t made the same dietary improvements as whites in recent decades. The author’s deeply empathetic approach allows her to personalize the copious data on nutritional and health disparities she cites. The result is a devastating portrait of “the scarcity, uncertainty, and anxiety that permeates so much of the American dietary experience.” (Nov.)