We just finished reading a fascinating book called What the World Eats. This book is a photo essay with photographs taken by Peter Menzel. He also wrote a book back in the 90’s called Material World: A Global Family Portrait which is also worth your time, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
What the World Eats takes a look at 25 families from 21 countries and explores what they eat in a week’s time. The photos show the family together with their week’s supply of food displayed in the foreground. There is also a detailed list of the grocery items and the cost in both their country’s currency and US dollars. There are interesting facts about each country as well as a narrative about what life is like for the family. In addition, there are pages scattered throughout the book with statistics about life in the countries and how the individual countries compare to the rest. One page that we found quite interesting was the one that compared life expectancy. There are also graphs that show interesting tidbits like how many McDonald’s restaurants are in each country and what the literacy rate is.
I read this book aloud with my two youngest boys covering one or two families each day. After we read we talked about the pictures and what life was like for each family. I was amazed at how quickly my boys recognized that we live in a very wealthy country compared to the rest of the world. We had many discussions about how spoiled we felt when we looked at what other families had or didn’t have.
There are several websites that go along with this book. And on this page, it shows several of the photos from an earlier book called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. The website doesn’t include the informative text about the families.
The other book I mentioned, called Material World: A Global Family Portrait, is similar in format but this time the focus in on what each family owns. The photos show the family outside their home with all of their belongings displayed around them. Again, it was sobering to see how people in other parts of the world live. On the web, you can find more information here where you can see some of the families in the program NOVA developed around this book. You can also visit Peter Menzel’s website for more information about his work.