The Arts Scene: Exhibit puts family diets on display

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The typical American diet seems to always be in the news, either stating what is or is not good for you, and what the newest diet craze is.

What is the typical diet for a week? For the Craven family of American Canyon, Calif., the week may consist of corn dogs, pizza, bananas and vanilla wafers. They are just one family featured in a book called “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.”

The opening exhibit for this season at the Larson Gallery is based on this book, which is a James Beard Foundation Book Award winner. Photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Alusio sat down to dinner with 30 families in 24 different countries. Stories, grocery lists and photos of each family surrounded by a week’s work of groceries provides us with snapshots to compare these families with ourselves.

The exhibit is touring from COSI (Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio). I had lunch with Josh Kessler, director of production and exhibits at COSI, on a recent trip to the American Alliance of Museums conference in Phoenix. As we were eating (notice the relation to food) it became clear how the relevance of this exhibition would coincide with the curriculum at Yakima Valley College, including a range of classes from nutrition to political science, and offer a unique experience for the entire community.

What was immediately apparent, when comparing photographs of each family surrounding their food for a week, was the amount of processed food in one family’s diet in the United States versus a family such as the Mendozas in Guatemala. The photograph showing the amount of vegetables and grains, in a variety of color, as it spilled out on the blanket in front of them.

The food expenditures of a week were also examined for each family. A family in Bhutan would spend 224.93 ngultrum (a monetary unit of Bhutan), equal to about $5 US. The cost of produce from Bhutan was based on the value of home-grown food. When this was compared to the Fernandez family of San Antonio, Texas, who spends $242.48 for a week of food, it is quite a difference.

The exhibition Hungry Planet: What the World Eats will open at the Larson Gallery on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 3 to 5 p.m. Admission to the gallery is free. This exhibition will be on view until Oct. 20.

Funding for this exhibit made possible through the 2013-2018 Title V Hispanic Serving Institution Cooperative Grant with Heritage University.

David Lynx is executive director of the Larson Gallery at Yakima Valley College. Learn more at www.larsongallery.org.

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