Sources: From Famine to Fast Food: Nutrition, Diet, and Concepts of Health Around the World

Sources: From Famine to Fast Food: Nutrition, Diet, and Concepts of Health Around the World

From Famine to Fast Food: Nutrition, Diet, and Concepts of Health Around the World. Ed. by Ken Albala. Santa Barbara, CA.: Greenwood, 2014. 293 pages. Acid free $37 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-743-9). Ebook available (978-1-61069-744-6), call for pricing.

The distribution of food is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. While some struggle to find enough to eat to meet their minimum nutritional needs, others are eating themselves to death, consuming foods high in sugar, fat and salt that lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other diet-related illnesses. Often both phenomena can occur in the same country. From Famine to Fast Food examines access to food in countries across the world.

The five-page introduction provides an overview of the many issues related to food distribution and how hunger persists despite increased capacity for food production. It describes the economic, climatic, agricultural, political and environmental factors influencing people's ability to access sufficient sustenance or their food choices, providing the reader with an understanding of how, in many areas, obesity is not simply a consequence of overindulgence but the result of a lack of access to healthful food options.

Following the introduction, entries are arranged by continent and then alphabetically by country. Each entry begins with a data table that includes the percentage of the population that has access to safe drinking water, the percentage of children who are underweight, the percentage of adults who are overweight, the average daily caloric intake and other data. The charts itself provides an informative and often startling snapshot of the inhabitants' access to food and water. Though the provided data could likely be found in the U.S. World Almanac, a note to the reader about where the information came from would have been beneficial.

In addition to the data table, entries include explanatory text that provides further contextual information the country's patterns of food production and consumption or lack thereof. The chart depicts the nutritional health of the population while the text illustrates the causes behind the statistics. In a few instances, the text does not provide sufficient insight into the reasons behind the data but merely describes the population's food preferences as well as the cultural and religious beliefs that influence those preferences. Most entries, however, offer more analysis of the population's health.

A recipe for a representative dish is included for many of the countries. While this is a fun addition, it also serves to demonstrate ingredients and cooking methods typically used in a particular country.

Over one hundred contributors supplied the entries in this book. They often included statistics that illustrate their assertions. Though many of the authors cited the source of their statistics, many others did not. This might diminish the book's usability for some readers. Though not necessary, a map depicting where in the continent a nation is located would have been helpful as well.

This book would be a suitable addition to public and college libraries.—Susan Trujillo, Librarian, West Los Angeles College, Los Angeles


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