So you’re good at food porn…now what?
Be honest: in the last 24 hours, how many food photos have you taken? How many of them have you shared?
I was thinking of this over the weekend as I pulled out my phone to take yet another picture of my morning mug of tea. Granted the winter sunlight coming through the window was beautiful, and it was a calm quiet moment that I wanted to keep for later, but why wouldn’t just an image in my head suffice?
More than 60 photos per second are uploaded to Instagram, and sure they’re not all of food trucks and Americanos improved by a vintage filter, but food photos make up a large percentage of the millions of photos shared every day.
Why are we so obsessed with sharing our food with the rest of the internet?
Food is social. Eating is not only a way to sustain us; it’s a way to connect with each other. As Epicurus famously said, “We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink…” We want to share food pictures with our friends, because even if we’re eating alone, passing along an image is second best to having the person right there.
But it’s not just our own food photos that we’re drawn to. In general, we’re in a cultural moment where food reigns. Food & Drink is one of the most popular categories on Pinterest. Primetime television is booked to the max with cooking shows and reality culinary contests. The magazine stand is filled with glossy covers of exquisite meals. It’s not an understatement to say that we’re obsessed with food porn.
This is all well and good (there's nothing wrong with dreaming about food and how to make it better) but our obsession with food porn—be it on social media, in a magazine or on television—comes at a time when we’re fatter and hungrier than ever before. More than one third of U.S. adults are obese, leading to over $148 billion in associated health costs every year. At the same time, one in seven U.S. households don’t have enough food to put on the table. That’s over 17 million people going hungry every day.
Food porn gives us the illusion that all is well on the home front; that hunger and obesity are problems to be dealt with elsewhere. But while we’re busy snapping sexy shots of homemade granola served in a mason jar, there are people starving and dying from diet related issues.
There is a clear discrepancy here, and it’s one that’s essential to discuss.
The benefit of the rise of food photos is that it does have us talking more about what we eat and where it comes from, and that is the first step; the more conversations we have about food, the more aware we are about the food system as a whole. But conversations are just one part of the process. If we’re expecting to turn our awareness about what we eat into a pivotal point for the food movement, then we have to go one step further. Being conscious about what we eat is one thing; taking action to do something about it is another.
Food porn isn’t going to save the planet, but active, engaged individuals are, so take that love of food one step farther and do something with it.
Do a Community Project
There are plenty of ways to work on hunger and health issues in your own community. Find an organization that is working on food issues and see how you can take part. Or think about what the needs of the people around you are and start your own project. Some ideas:
Put surplus food to use—food waste is a big issue, and programs that work with stores and restaurants to distribute surplus food can greatly benefit the people that need it the most.
Teach others how to cook—sometimes one of the greatest barriers to eating good food is knowing what to do with it. Find an organization that works to educate children and families about how to make easy, healthy meals from scratch.
Volunteer at a Local Farm
There are lots of urban and rural farms around the country working hard to deal with issues of food insecurity, and they always need help. In Portland, Zenger Farms was one of the first to accept food stamps for its CSA program. They offer classes for the local community on not only farming, but also cooking. This is one of many programs around the U.S. working hard to better engage the community and provide economically viable local food solutions for all community members, no matter their socio economic situation.
Always Vote With Your Fork
It’s easy even for the most conscious of us to let things slide. Make small commitments that allow you to change your everyday habits. Maybe it’s committing to only eating meat that’s produced locally, or not eating a certain item of food that comes from far away. Whatever it is, there are changes that all of us can make, no matter where we are on the scale of foodie consciousness. We all have to eat everyday, and that’s why voting with our forks can have such an impact. Put that power to good use.