It’s been said, “You are what you eat” though few may remember what they had for lunch last Tuesday. Our diets, like our identities, may be formed by nature and nurture but one thing is clear: habit is what creates our sense of reality.
In our present day and age,
one force has risen above all: the corporate drive to erase indigenous
traditions and practices, replacing them with an artificial version that exacts
the highest profit margin. Under the banner of globalization, neoliberal
capitalist practices push us towards the brink of crisis at every turn.
It’s easy to see the
correlation between diet and health in so-called “first world” economies like
the United States where chronic disease is affecting vast swatch of the
population at younger and younger ages every year as the public is steadily fed
a diet of misinformation packaged in marketing-speak and backed by scientific
In the new book, Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World, American photographer Gregg Segal has created a snapshot of the relationship between diet, culture, and location in a series of stunning portraits wherein the children are photographed surrounded by one-weeks forth of food.
If you’ve ever kept a food
diary, you know how easy it is to be shocked, not only by how much you may
consume, but by what and when you eat. It’s easy to forget about a late night
snack until you see a different one written down every night of the week, or
start to notice how few fruits and vegetables you may actually consume, until
you spell it out in ink. Now imagine if you assembled every single item on that
list into a glorious still life — what emotions would that make you feel?
Segal notes that in 2015,
Cambridge University conducted an exhaustive study ranking diets around the
world from most to least nutritional. Unsurprisingly 9 of 10 of the healthiest
countries are in Africa, a testament to the ability of the cradle of humanity
to endure against centuries of imperialism. Segal surmises this is because they
are poor so the multinational food corporations have not decided to infiltrate
them on the consumer side.
Segal’s portraits are deeply
revealing meditations of the relationship between environment, culture and
identity, and the way it is formed and forged in the developmental years of
childhood. Photographed from above the images are both portraits and
inforgraphics about not only the children’s culture but their families as well.
Through what they consume and its frequency, we are given a snapshot not only
into family mealtimes and what adults consider acceptable for a growing child.
Within the luxurious still
life, each child poses knowingly, perhaps a bit precocious in the age of
overexposure, but with a clear sense of self and identity. Brief profiles
accompany each portrait, giving us a snapshot of who and how old there are,
where they are from, what they enjoy doing, and the role food plays in their
The glorious spectrum of humanity in these photographs is beautifully expressed in both the specificity of each portrait and the universal nature of childhood. The whole world lies before them, the building blocks essential to their quality of life. Few may ever know the world that Kawakinah Yawalapiti, 9, enjoys as a member of the Yawalapiti people of the Amazonian Basin of Brazil. “It takes five minutes to catch dinner,” she says. “When you are hungry, you just got to the river with your net.”