What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The World

What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The World

It seems as a people, we have a fascination with photographing our food. From Henry's series of riders, to looking on instagram we cant help but document what we consume. Photographer Peter Menzel started this intriguing series of one weeks of groceries from around the world, taking traditional food photography to a much larger scale. In his book Hungry Planet, Peter explores both the cultural differences of diets around the world as well investigating how prosperity and poverty influence the diets of different nations.

hungry planet food around the world

Here is the book description of Menzel's amazing project:

The age-old practice of sitting down to a family meal is undergoing unprecedented change as rising world affluence and trade, along with the spread of global food conglomerates, transform eating habits worldwide. HUNGRY PLANET profiles 30 families from around the world--including Bosnia, Chad, Egypt, Greenland, Japan, the United States, and France--and offers detailed descriptions of weekly food purchases; photographs of the families at home, at market, and in their communities; and a portrait of each family surrounded by a week's worth of groceries. Featuring photo-essays on international street food, meat markets, fast food, and cookery, this captivating chronicle offers a riveting look at what the world really eats.

what people eat around the world

Great Britain

View the entire series Here in Menzel's Book Hungry Planet.

[Via Time]

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Simone Erica's picture

Just because some Americans eat healthy, doesn't mean that we all do. I would imagine they loosely tied the photos to some sort of national statistics. Statistically speaking, we clearly do eat a lot of junk food as a nation. Half of us are literally struggling with a disease due to eating too much crap food. Even if a family in the photo wouldn't actually eat like that, and I know families of every race that do, it still is a representation of what we consume as a nation.

John Tan's picture

Kuwait has a higher obesity rate than the United States. Don't believe me? Look it up.

Viola's picture

Grains are not healthy, FYI.

LadyArtemis's picture

You are very right. Next time you go to the market.... esp a big box budget mkt like Food For Less or Costco etc.... and check out what is in the basket of most shoppers.... processed crap!!!

Brian's picture

Actually, there is a general misconception that USA is the most obese country by a long shot. A few months ago, Mexico became the most obese country in the world (at a rate of 32.8 compared to the US of 31.8) with many other post-industrialized nations at or just below 30%. This of course varies depending on the methods of the particular epidemiologic study. Without a doubt America is considerably "fat" but so is the rest of western civilization.

But therein lies the issues at hand - are the above pictures truly that representative? I would say no. But for the following reasons:
1) the USA "on average" (I use the term loosely) probably isn't that bad
2) post-industrial nations such as Canada, GB, and so on are probably worse
3) Nations such as Canada are so ethnically diverse can you really qualify a true average?

Food for thought....

Pun intended

Chris's picture

I'm Canadian and the only time I see obese people is when American tourists come around during summer time. Also, what the hell does ethnic diversity have to do with obesity rates?

disqus_fAAggus6j2's picture

You are so full of it! My extended family is from Canada and they are just as fat as anyone. Gee I wonder how all those fast food places stay in business in Canada if no one eats it. Poutine is enough to kill ya!

Brian's picture

Well, Chris while I do not deny your observations a few points should be made.

First, I can make no assumption about where you live in canada epidemiological studies find that the rate of obesity ranges from 22% to 32% depending on the particular provence. The estimated rate of obesity is now 25% in Canada. This is 1/4 compared to the US which is 1/3

Next, with the above data it would be quite difficult to state that you never see obese people in Canada as 1/4 Canadians are considered obese.

Next, your claim that you only see obese people when American's visit during the summer time. This is a flawed argument for the following reasons.

1) While I am sure it is mostly American's who visit, they are not they only ones who visit.

2) There may be observation bias, i.e. as you know American's are around you notice more obesity

3) Even if you have observed several obese Americans that cannot be used as causality to make assertions. Does socioeconomic factors that effect obesity also effect vacation and travel behaviors? Probably - that's a major confounder.

Finally, making simple and rather mundane observations from a single viewpoint is not consider scientific nor a rational argument especially compared to concrete epidemiological data.

As to my comment about ethnic diversity. Background: Nearly 20% of Canadians are Foreign Born, an additional 18% are first generation Canadians. That majority of which include people from China, India, and a large hodge-podge of people from all over the Middle East, South East Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe

Now I will reiterate my point from the original post since you have regretfully missed it. How can some of these picture be truly representative of a nation's food habits if that nation has a nation full of cultural and ethnic diversity? Canada, as my example, is so diverse and rich in cultural heritage that I would not dare homogenized its food behaviors.

As you will note my comment has nothing to do with obesity and as you will note my comment about ethnic diversity falls under the concerns about the pictures not as a new topic.


Caleb's picture

Thanks mate for a rational and scientific response. Your comments are a pleasure to read amongst, well, nearly everything else here. I appreciate it!

CantPhaseMe's picture

Are you serious? I live right on the Canadian border and see many obese Canadians over here shopping.

Viola's picture

Ethnic diversity means that people are going to be eating a wide variety of foods. If there is a large South Asian population in your town, many of the older people will probably be shopping at Indian Grocers and eating a diet that is considerably different from your average white family.

Edgar Aethelred's picture

"Canada are so ethnically diverse "
LOL another Diversity Sheep. Canada is a European-founded, European culture and has only become "diverse" in the last decade or 2 max, thanks to leftist social engineering. BAA-AA--AA-AAAAA!

BSArticle's picture

That picture doesnt portray American families as eating lots of "GMO's, prepackaged foods and junk food"... it shows them eating at least 4 dinners as take out. There is a huge difference between the garbage people cook and the garbage sold as fast food. I am not saying the majority eat healthy, they just dont eat as that picture portrays. I have friends and family from all aspects of life, different race, different class, etc. and NONE of them eat out that much. Even my sister, who is a one armed, single mother of two high school boys living on disability and the minimum child support manages to feed her kids better than that. Your average family cant AFFORD to eat out that much. That table could possibly be believable if it was for a single bachelor. But it really irrates me that they pass that farce off as what the average U.S. family eats in a week.

oracleof jamie's picture

No offense HBRI, but you are wrong on all accounts. That picture is propaganda, I also was in a military family and lived with and near people from all over the US, I also lived in half a dozen states unrelated to service and I can most certainly tell you the average family does not eat like that. College students maybe, young bachelor/bachelorette maybe, but the average family, no not even close. Also America is not even in the top ten of most obese countries!

I was raised in a traditional Canadian family. Junk food was a taboo. Sugar and kids, bad mix. My Mom made sure that my brother and I, had healthy snacks, no pop, no chips etc. That junk only came around during a birthday, Easter, Halloween and Christmas/New Years. She fed us well, since we were a set of growing boys that needed as much energy possible. Thanks to her teachings, we both have long since incorporated what she taught us, into our adult lives. At least with the Canadian family's photo, you don't see the amount of Junk Food the American family displayed. You can tell by the other images, they know how to eat with little or no junk food showing at all. Hmm, perhaps the American family could benefit simply by changing how they consume and choose a more tasteful menu? Yeah I know, wishful thinking on my part.

Rae's picture

"Wishful thinking on my part"
If you lead such a healthy, glorious lifestyle and you don't make any of the poor dietary decisions that the family depicted does, why do you need wishful thinking? Clearly you're doing fine, it's absolutely not your problem what these people are doing. Your gratuitous comment is not going to solve anything and the depiction you've provided of your wholesome upbringing has by and large taught us all nothing. The family seen here, and millions of others like them, are not going to see the light because you decided to be self-righteous in the comments section of this article. And furthermore, we live on an incredibly overpopulated planet. If Americans want to kill themselves off with tons of processed crap, more power to 'em.

Jayne William's picture

Oh please. Canada is terrible, they just happened to pick a 'good' family. Get off your high horse. Or are you still snowed in.

Amanda Sutcliffe's picture

Wow. How grown up of you Jayne...

oracleof jamie's picture

Actually, I just wrote a comment stating the average American family is more like the Canada family photo. the American photo does not represent the average American diet at all in fact it's so out there it's an obvious joke. You do need to get off your high horse. Most Americans are raised the same way you described pastries are for birthday, candy is for Halloween and Easter and people tend to eat more heavy on the holidays or on vacations.

Malinda J Bills's picture

SusyQ, I think that picture is pretty accurate of a large portion of our country. Unfortunately, time requirements, convenience, cost and other factors make this processed, unhealthy food easier and cheaper. So for many, they are a great option. Unfortunately, long-term repercussions to our health are not considers and usually not adequately communicated via our corporate-based media.

Elizabeth Feucht's picture

There is an entire book that goes along with these photographs - the photos fail to tell the whole story. The story behind the american family is really interesting. They were trying to be healthier and so they joined the gym as a family. After 2 hours of working out after work/school, they found they didn't have time to cook their own food and resorted to junk. Eventually, they bought a treadmill and started going for walks close to home so they would have time to cook more healthfully. The photograph was taken during that transition, but before it was complete.
Also, the book includes multiple families from some countries. I remember Australia, specifically, also had a photograph of a more well-off family in Sydney, I think. They had much healthier food, of course. The australian family shown in this series of photos lives in the outback without a lot of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, but there's a McDonalds in town, of course.

Vaughn Brown's picture

It would have been interesting if the photos were taken of families who were in the same socio-economic class, with the same income relative to a broader economic measurement and lived in the same type of environment (urban vs. rural vs. suburban). Need an apples to apple comparison - no pun intended!

Elizabeth Feucht's picture

I agree. Though, I don't think the major point of the original journalism was for direct comparison of healthfulness, I think it was more of a comparison of food culture in general. It talks about how long each family works to prepare each meal, the percentage of income they spend, and where their food comes from, which is interesting when you see that many of the rural families are subsistence farmers.

Tanya Straley's picture

You might keep in mind that other cultures may not have the same socio-economic classes, so in fact, this might be spot on if the photographer is trying to portray the average family for each of these cultures.

IrishYank2's picture

I agree, but it may be hard to find the same socio-economic status in the US vs, say, Chad.

Yvonne's picture

Hi Elizabeth

What is the name of the book?

Thanks :)

Elizabeth Feucht's picture

It's called "Hungry Planet" by Peter Menzel. It's a really great read, and it's good to be reminded sometimes that lists on the internet are incomplete (though fascinating to look at, I admit!)


Alexander Dunhill's picture

Informative and factual. I like it Elizabeth.

bluebirdfly's picture

SuzyQ- Hopefully people look through these photos to learn from them, and are enlightened in some way- if they weren't already. If you eat well and are from a 1st world country, then you should be proud of yourself. But as the old saying goes, "the team is only as good as its weakest player". Hopefully this disgusts junk food eaters enough to stop the cycle between GMO corn based (packaged) products and the 'mysteriously linked' health problems. I agree it sucks to live in a world with nothing but bad news, but if that's what it takes to raise our standards, so be it. This is a very accurate, although not perfect, representation of select country's average diets. Some families do much worse, some do much better. It's an average. But keep it up if you're eating organic, local, non-GMO, free range food. Personally, I'm surprised at how much these families have to eat. I never had that quantity, but then again I always had quality so who needs quantity then? I find it very interesting that as the pictures progress into 3rd world countries, the amount of food lessens and the sizes of families grow. But again, it's just an average. I bet the Mali and Bhutan dinners are incredible. And Guatemala's picture has it spot on!! After this, the saddest thing for me is seeing third world countries drinking soda. Because you know that was influenced from a 1st world country, when some company actively made the decision to create a new market on toxic, sugary, corn based drinks in a poor country, instead of to provide clean drinking water. In a place that isn't polluted with the nasty piggish habits of north america.

oracleof jamie's picture

Wow, you're attitude is disgusting! Your information is just plain wrong, I guess it just shows the world how ignorant you are!

Vaughn Brown's picture

Exactly, we did not eat that much junk food as a nation back "when you were a kid". We also didn't have the embarrassing obesity problem we do now. I have no idea when you were a kid but the situation has absolutely gotten worse thanks to corn subsidies by the US government.

Harley Colton's picture

Amen, I do not ever have burger king pizza and taco bell, and if i did i wouldnt go and buy them all in one day

Kolobok42's picture

Not Mexico- did you see all the bottles of Coca-cola! Ugh.

squidb8's picture

As I told my Doc, I don't make enough money to eat healthy. Our Gov spends more money in subsidies to corn producers, the people who give us animal feed, HFCS which we use in candy and soda, and now auto fuel.

Squishy123's picture

You can't afford basic staples? Maybe you need to learn to cook rather than reheat in a microwave.

Edgar Aethelred's picture

" I don't make enough money to eat healthy" LOL someone play the tiny violin for Fatty here! Denial us not a river in Egypt.

neitherman's picture

I was eating like that family until very recently, which is funny because we always had home cooked meals growing up. It took me some research and time to change my eating habits for the better. One can only hope others in the country can take a minute to examine how they eat and make the same change for the better.

IrishYank2's picture

I agree and disagree. There are many, if not most, families in America who eat garbage like the family in this pic. I did some research for Burger King about a decade ago and the studies found that BK was providing a lot of the time the only "vegetables" (through lettuce, onion, tomato on the burgers) than most kids got in a week. Are there opposites? Absolutely. Anyone with half a brain and who even knows the fundamentals of cooking pull sin a ton of veggies and fruits, but there are a lot of Americans who eat absolute garbage, like this family.

Alexander Dunhill's picture

I agree... I don't even buy Soda. We get one bag of chips a month. I mean seriously with the fresh Pizza! LOL On another note those people from Chad eat like birds. I don't know if I could do it... It also appears that Mexico only drinks Cola...

Saciel's picture

He also didn't show rich people from Chad (the few). In our western world, junk food is a sign of poorness. not absolutel poverty, but still you eat healthier if you are rich, but good food (especially vegetables and clean meat) are very expensive while junk food is not.

LadyArtemis's picture

Yes he did pick a Junk Food Family, cos if you dropped into a huge human size bowl of Americans and grabbed one family, odds have it you would grab a junk food family. sure, LOTS of Americans are eating healthy and this rocks.. but the majority of Americans eat CRAP! This includes starbucks and frozen dinners from Whole Foods. I can understand Whole foods frozen entrees for lunch at work.. but figure it out.. cook fresh at home~

Robert Hutchins's picture

Keep in mind these are photos so they are staged...some families eat worse...some eat better. Don't paint them all with one brush.

LadyArtemis's picture

this is true. but the American photo.... it is an average. but still sick

Stacy Barrow's picture

one thing i realized with the usa pic there was NO water and chad had!!

Aaron's picture

Yeah, but in Chad you can't drink the tap water, it's too polluted.

Ben's picture

As pretty much no one outside of cities has taps in Chad, there's no tap water to be polluted! Unless you're talking about the nearest lake, river or stream...

Aaron's picture

Which is also polluted. My comment is in regard to the person citing that there was no water in America and there was in Chad. Tap water is polluted (when I say tap, I'm also including pump wells, etc), so they have to keep their water bottled or in containers after it's been boiled down to sanitize it. That's why there's a lot of bottles of water in Chad.

Sarosh's picture

Many villages have tap water in Chad. But it's well water. They do drink it but it's the water that we, as westerners, are told not to drink. It's also the reason behind typhoid and a lot of other sicknesses in the country and region as a whole.

Dan's picture

Told not to drink tap water by whom? the bottled water companies who want you to buy their bottled water?

Brandon Saranczak's picture

Even in Pennsylvania, because of fracking!

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