Case study: All Things Food
As any biological species, we humans need food to survive. Food delivers nutrients such as carbs, amino acids, fibers, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Througout the human history food was hunted, collected, cooked in a variety of ways, preserved, selected and grown to improve certain qualities and properties. At the same time taste, personal preferences, access to food and cost of food are all factors which influence what we eat and how we eat it. This case study revolves around issues related to the production and consumption of food such as: healthy eating and healing foods, superfoods, organic food, junk food and GMO-based foods. We adopt different perspectives - from individual choice of food to global implications of food growing.
All Things Food
Recommended for: high school students, university students, adults
Tags: food production, economics, environment, sustainable development, health, personal choices, diets
Building block 6. The "sociology" of eating
Why do some people have a clear preference for a specific type of food? What is "junk food", and why people like it? What's the big deal with "organics"? Or "superfoods"? What do we actually know about these foods, and what makes us prefer one or the other?
Scientific papers (long read)
1. Organic produce - who's eating it? A demographic profile of organic produce consumers.
https://ehttps://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/superfoods/ [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
2. Customers purchasing organic food - Do they live healthier? Results of the German National Nutrition Survey
http://www.journalejnfs.com/index.php/EJNFS/article/view/26777/50237 [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
3. Consumers associate organic food with natural process, care for the environment and animal welfare and the non-use of pesticides and fertilisers
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257716052_Consumer_Perceptions_Towards_Organic_Food/fulltext/0267aa1c0cf2946d9a224351/Consumer-Perceptions-Towards-Organic-Food.pdf [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
(Page 2 and following - Review on consumer perceptions towards organic food - for consumer profile and attitudes)
5. Profile of organic food consumers (includes data in tables and graphs)
http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30003379/worsley-australiansorganic-post-2005.pdf [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
6. Savouring morality: moral satisfaction renders food of ethical origin subjectively tastier
https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10023/9235/Bratanova_et_al.Savouring_morality._Appetite.pdf [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
1. Warren Buffett will not apologize for his junk food addiction
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/warren-buffett-berkshire-hathaway-sweet-tooth-dairy-queen-coca-cola-see-s-candies-201539716.html [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
2. Attittudes towards GMO - survey results
https://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2018/what-do-consumers-think-of-gmos/ [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
3. No, poor people don't eat the most fast food
https://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/12/health/poor-americans-fast-food-partner/index.html [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
4. Food shaming: Why I'm avoiding foods labeled 'Non-GMO Project' verified
https://www.agweek.com/opinion/columns/4383556-food-shaming-why-im-avoiding-foods-labeled-non-gmo-project-verified [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
1. Food Addiction: Inside Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
2. Do you eat Organic? Quick interviews with people at an organic market in California.
3. Organic brands bloom in the Indian Food Market
The learning outcomes represent the competences which learners are expected to develop as a result of the training intervention:
1. The learner will be able to explain the factors which lead to the large diversity of opinions on, and preferences for, food
2. The learner will be able to discuss the most common arguments for and against the food types covered by the case study
3. The learner will be able to understand how individual frames and motivated congition shapes our profile as eaters
Suggested teaching methods
> Study of available materials online
> Use of mindmapping software
> Group reflection and self-evaluation of work tasks
> Creating list by topic based on agreed criteria
> Extract relevant information from sources and construct lists of characteristics
> Online search
Suggested learning activities
> Encourage the learners to share their food preferences. Ask them to list 2-3 reasons for doing so. Record the answers in an aggregated list and note which reasons repeat most often.
> Go through the provided resources. Depending on the group size, you can split the learners and have each group study 2-3 resources. Let the learners take note of as many triplets they can find or relate, such as: age/gender/level of education/location - food preference -- key reason for the preference.
> Ask the learners if when they were going through the resources they met a claim which sounded a) way too funny, b) way too stupid. Let them explain why. See if someone else in the group feels this is unfair and wishes to defend the claim. Keep things polite and within the fun zone. Start a debate why a particular claim can be perceived at the same time, by different people, as funny or stupid, important or irrelevant, etc.
> Now that you have a list of key reasons for the different preferences and you have discussed them, try to look at them from a different perspective: what is the nature of these reasons? How much of them is down to really personal preferences, e.g. taste, how much are they influenced by upbringing, family and close friends, how much of them is a product of marketing and advertisement, influenced by prominent public figures or a distinguished lifestyle, economic and financial reasons, desire to appear trendy and fashionable, etc.
> Discuss food preferences in the long run. Do we strictly keep to one type of food? How easy or difficult is it to change? Are we ever trapped in our choices? Do these choices have long-term consequences? Could they be down to generational shifts?
OPTIONAL: You may want to use a free mindmapping tool and then distribute the generated image to the learners. This is a very good use of such a tool as it streamlines and brings clariy to complex and interdependent elements. If the size of the class allows it, you can appoint a small group (2-3 learners) and put them in charge of "keeping the record". Learners who have demonstrated good abstraction and spatial planning skills or those who have creative skills are the type of candidates to choose for this group. You could talk to these learners beforehand to let them know what you plan to do and in what steps.
OPTIONAL: Hold a competition for producing memes related to the topic. IMPORTANT: Aks the learners to reflect what should be the competition criteria for winning? Would it be the funniest meme, the most ironic, the most sarcastic one...? Have several teams (2-3) composed along the lines of their own eating preferences. Point the learners to a free meme-generator and have each team submit a max of 2 proposals. Let the whole class vote - based on the criteria they have determined themselves.
NOTE: This building block can be compressed in 1 session or extended to 2 sessions depending on the time availability.
De Facto pillars
Systemic Causality: The large collection and complex nature of factors leading to particular food preference (and sometimes associated lifestyle) are an excellent context to demonstrate what systemic causality is. Explain how there is no simple explanation of the different profiles of eating preferences and how a multitude of factors exert influence over these preferences. As an examole, to single out a factor and try to build a negative image of an "opposing" eating style may seem like a powerful tool, but in fact it only reveals weakness about one's ability to construct and argument.
Frames and Framing: Discuss how food stereotypes (frames) are clearly visible throughout this case study. What about: "you are what you eat"? Discuss how, depending on the dominant preference for food, the alternatives would be typically labelled as "worse choices". Ask the learners to try and find out whether they can associate the profiles of eating they will have constructed with other "typical" preferences and behaviours (e.g. would organic eaters be also mostly associated with environmentally-conscious).
Additional online tools
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