The Sociology of Food Research Paper
Effects of Neoliberalism on American Experience of Food
Neoliberalism can be defined as a policy model of economics and social studies that change how the control of economic aspects are controlled by ensuring that they are managed by the private sector instead of the public sector. In this perspective, it is apparent that an essential role of neoliberalism is fostering economic growth by increasing competition through deregulation of health, welfare, environmental, labor, and social laws, reducing the role of state privatization of country’s assets, opening local markets to international clients, enhancing corporate influence, liberalization of economic policies, as well as taking part in governance. Specifically, neoliberalism was pioneered by the International Monetary Fund during the 1980s and adopted across the world due to its propensity to benefit the ruling political class. As a result, neoliberalism policies have promoted a value chain, which begins with theoretical activities in research organizations and in academia and the moves to institutions which enact and foster specific aspects of the neoliberal policies and feeds it to the implementers and policy advisers who implement policy recommendations at the international or national levels. In this perspective, there is no doubt that the neoliberalism has had far-reaching consequences on the American experience of food in individuals’ everyday lives specifically by causing eating disorders, obesity, and food insecurity.
First, neoliberalism has led to increased cases of obesity among the American people. There is no doubt that if left unchecked obesity or overweight has a great potential to overtake smoking as a significant public health problem, possibly reversing the advantages that reducing smoking rates has had on the residents of the United States of America for an unprecedented period. Usually, obesity has been known to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, orthopedic challenges, and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to having the potential to cause all these problems, Puhl and Heuer argue out their article that high prevalence rates of obesity in the developed countries such as the United States of America (USA) are partly as a result of the economic and political decisions (1019). Since 1980, the “market fundamentalism” or the neoliberalism has dominated the economies and politics in the USA than ever before. In this context, neoliberalism has been identified as an epidemic since it is on a global scale and it is transmitted across space and time that in case it was a biological condition, then it would have been viewed as of epidemic proportions. In that context, obesity can be considered to be a neoliberal problem because of different reasons. First, neoliberalism policies sweep across the social and economic lives people, a factor that has made it possible for fewer people to afford to buy a balanced diet and healthy meals. Secondly, neoliberalism policies lead activities such as marketing of unhealthy foods, especially when multinational companies expand their territories into the developing countries as a result of the elimination of trading and investment barriers.
At the same time, neoliberalism has led to increased cases of food insecurity in the United States of America. Generally, food security is achieved when all citizens in a country have access to different kinds of foods, which enable them to lead healthy and active lives. In case the available food is not adequate, insufficient in nutrition, and it is of poor quality, then there is a strong likelihood that individuals in that country would be malnourished and their overall well-being would be compromised. Even though the United States of America is considered wealthy and the most developed economy in the world, some of its residents can be viewed as being food insecure. Enough evidence exists showing that the neoliberalism ideas directed towards finding solutions to food problems are leading to increased pressure on the environment and to the destruction of some farming sectors both of which have the potential to affect food security and future food security in the USA.
For instance, agriculture in the USA is, and most of the farmers in the country engage in this activity to export their commodities. This factor has made sure that farming operates under a system referred to as “competitive productivism”, which is determined by neoliberalism. Since farmers from the USA are determined to produce food enough to cater for the international market and receive little compensation and support from the government, they have been forced to acquire latest management systems and technologies to improve efficiency and increase output (Pimentel 5). Specifically, they have been forced to adopt self-help policies to enhance their business’ operations so that they are in an excellent position to pursue greater global competition. Therefore, as farmers struggle to beat their competitors and reach their goals, engage in activities which could undermine future food production and possibly lead place hindrances on the capacity of the USA to export food in future.
To summarize, it is apparent that neoliberalism can be defined as a policy model of economics and social studies that changes how control of economic aspects are controlled by ensuring that they are managed by private sector instead of the public sector. Mainly, it has had far-reaching consequences on the American experience of food in individuals’ everyday lives specifically by causing eating disorders, obesity, and food insecurity.
Effective Interventions to Improve how Americans Eat
There is no doubt that interventions directed towards enhancing healthy eating habits make a significant contribution towards the prevention of health problems like cancer and cardiovascular diseases which have turned out to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States of America. While there are essential clinical strategies such as wellness checks, taking specific medications, psychological counseling, and attending nutritional counseling, other upstream interventions such as improving school systems, reducing inequalities, and reforming the healthcare systems have also been found to be effective strategies in promoting healthy eating habits among the American people.
First, improving the school system is an essential strategy that can be an effective intervention that can be done upstream to enhance how Americans eat. In the United States of America, most school going children, especially those at the adolescent stage do not necessarily eat the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits, and in most occasions the average intake of whole grains in ordinarily insufficient. At the same time, a considerable increase in the prevalence rates of obesity among school children has been associated with chronic diseases which have always been viewed as an adult problem, an implication that there is an urgent need to enhance the nutrition among school going children and adolescents. In this perspective, there is no doubt that improving the school system, for example by introducing the School Lunch Program in all schools across the country as well as the breakfast initiative would go to a great extent in enhancing the diet quality given to children and the overall health of adolescents and school children. Precisely, all schools throughout the nation ought to be urged to introduce breakfast and lunch programs, which would help ensure that children are given high-quality nutrition that kids from low-income families would otherwise be unable to afford. At the same time, the government should make sure that all children who live in households with 130 percent of poverty levels are given free meals and those from families with incomes of 140 percent to 180 percent are given meals at subsidized prices. Therefore, it is clear that improving the school system is an essential strategy that can be utilized in ensuring that children are given quality and nutritious meals to help improve their eating and promote a healthy diet.
Second, reforming the healthcare system in the United States of America can also be a vital step in promoting healthy eating among Americans. Specifically, the healthcare sector of the United States of America can come up with policies which require that the healthcare professionals carry out public awareness campaigns to educate people about healthy eating. Public awareness campaigns refer to planned communication activities which have the intentions of changing behavior and creating awareness among the residents and are mostly signified by mass campaigns. Healthcare practitioners can use these organized functions to provide education about nutritious foods, generic health eating, foods to avoid, food-based dietary guidelines, and the importance of engaging in physical activities to promote digestion and achieve fitness. For example, nurses or physicians can use awareness campaigns to educate patients about the essence of eating a diet rich in fiber to reduce the chances of getting coronary heart diseases or even lower the chances of dying. Nurses can also educate members of the public that eating foods high in fiber helps protect the body against developing type 2 diabetes or eating plenty of fruits helps regulates blood sugar level in the body.
Additionally, reducing inequality is yet another critical step towards promoting healthy eating habits among Americans. It is undeniable that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases and cancer are significant causes of death or disability in the United States of America. A considerable portion of the non-communicable disease can be attributed to behavioral risk factors like smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity. Sadly, poor nutrition causes poor population challenges of mortality from the non-communicable diseases compared to other elements combined. In fact, eating a healthy diet signifies a social gradient among people from a lower socioeconomic class being lower in quality compared to those individuals from a higher socioeconomic level. Generally, the socioeconomic inequalities seen in dietary combinations are impacted by aspects including access, costs, and knowledge.
In most cases, a diet that is higher in energy seems less expensive compared to a diet containing products with less dense energy. A food choice is not only a behavioral problem, but it is also an economic challenge, an implication that people from the lower socioeconomic class are more likely to select less nutritious foods. In this perspective, reducing inequality would help promote healthy eating habits since people from all walks of life would get equal chances to choose healthy foods.
In summary, interventions directed towards enhancing healthy eating habits make a significant contribution to the prevention of health problems. In that case, reforms such as improving school systems, reducing inequalities, and reforming the healthcare systems have been found to be effective strategies in promoting healthy eating habits among the American people.
Significance of Food Authenticity
By definition, authenticity can be said to be a state in which something is accepted or considered to be genuine. It can be used to describe a piece or an item that is real and is not copied. In that regard, authentic food is one that communicates value, guaranteeing that the food is precisely what it appears to be, or what is believed and perceived to be. Here, to prepare authentic food, one must use the same ingredients, procedures, and methods as those used in the native land or country of the ethnic group that is associated and recognized with that food (Lu, Shun, and Gary 1995 538). Over the years, and due to the emergence of multicultural societies, many communities are slowly losing their cultures, or are transforming their traditions. Adjustments have been made in the type of ingredients and procedures used in food preparations in a bid to accommodate the customs and tastes of the new people. For instance, the move has led to the emergence of Americanized ethnic foods that are not, exactly, as the original native foods. However, authenticity can still be a meaningful concept, here, because it can serve as berm against the fading of the food and drug line.
Over the years, and due to industrialization, the distinction that existed between foods and drugs has slowly faded away. The industrialization has brought about technological advancements in the food industry, which has played a significant role in blurring this line of distinction. Food slowly and steadily disappeared from the shelves in food stores, and “nutrients” gradually replaced them. This substitution can be attributed to the emergence of food processing factories that arose from industrialization. Studies and various researches revealed essential nutrients that the body needed for biological functioning. Several scholars, from multiple fields, studied these nutrients, and they came up with other chemical and physical processes of making these nutrients. This was a result of the rising demand for these processed foods that drew profits. These nutrients have proven to be harmful to human health for they have brought about various illnesses and conditions that are detrimental to human life. This pressure has made many to resort back to authentic foods, which were, and have always been safe for they guarantee quality and value for money.
Authentic foods, such as the Chinese, Mexican, and Italian foods have over the years dominated the American market. Many people have resorted to these foods for various reasons. Others like the food, while others want to learn new cultures. Though the foods have been modified, there have not been distorted to the extent of resembling processed food. The indigenous or native ingredients, as used with the natives in their respective homelands, are incorporated with local or American tastes or methods to attract external markets. The authenticity of these foods, though altered, still play a significant role in maintaining the line of distinction between food and drugs or processed food.
In conclusion, authenticity is still an important aspect when considering foods. With industrialization, many advancements and changes have been made in the way food is prepared and perceived. However, many clients desire or want the impression of authenticity in the food they eat, a process that has mounted pressure on the modern chefs and restaurant owners to prepare food as per the traditions. This move has helped in stabilizing the rift between food and drugs, for drugs are processed while food is made or prepared from natural products.
Lu, Shun, and Gary Alan Fine. “The presentation of ethnic authenticity: Chinese food as a social accomplishment.” The Sociological Quarterly Vol 36 no. 3, 1995, pp. 535-553.
Pimentel, David. “Environmental and social implications of waste in US agriculture and food sectors.” Journal of agricultural ethics Vol 3 no. 1, 1990, pp. 5-20.
Puhl, Rebecca M., and Chelsea A. Heuer. “Obesity stigma: important considerations for public health.” American journal of public health Vol. 100 no. 6, 2010, pp. 1019-1028.