Tag Archives: Food Culture

You Tweet What You Eat

3 May Food with Tape Measure

SocialTimes has an article today (Sorry, You Ate 500 Calories Over Your Limit Today — Foodzy Turns Dieting Into A Game) about Foodzy, a new social media-based app that allows users to track their food consumption and share their successes in their diets with their social network.  According to SocialTimes, “Foodzy rewards you for making healthy choices or fun eating habits with badges.”  I guess this is better than the shaming suggested at the Slate event, but I still don’t think that I want updates about everything I eat going to all of my Facebook friends.  Unfortunately, you can’t sign up for Foodzy yet, so you’re all going to have to wait a while for status updates like “Maggie ate oatmeal with Craisins and way too much brown sugar and half-n-half.”  (Really, everything is better with half-n-half.) Continue reading

Obesity as an Epidemic of Social Networks

21 Apr Obestiy Scale

Today I attended Slate’s conversation on the fight to end childhood obesity.  (I know, I know, not really a normal thing to do with your vacation…)  The event featured a number of doctors, policy makers, and other experts concerned with the obesity epidemic, each of whom presented their own thoughts on the subject and then joined a panel discussion.  The first session focused on the causes of childhood obesity, the second on the solutions.

Although all of the panelists presented different ideas and statistics, they all came back to the same thing: it’s about culture.  It’s about what we value and what we consider socially acceptable.  Dr. Ezekial J. Emanuel (brother of Rohm and Ari — seriously, were they genetically engineered or something), Chair of Bioethics at the National Institute of Health, spoke about obesity as an infectious disease, saying that research on social networks shows that once someone becomes obese, their friends and relatives are more likely to become obese.

All of the speakers seemed to be good liberal soldiers fighting the good fight, so I was surprised to hear the idea that social stigma could be a useful tool in the fight against obesity.  One of the panelists, David L. Katz, Director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center, talked specifically about stigmatizing behavior instead of stigmatizing outcomes.  The panelists also made sure to say that stigmatization should only be applied to adults, not children.  But, still it seemed wrong…

They talked about the cultural shift to end smoking and how curbing the way that it was viewed as “cool” was a big part in getting people to quit.  But, obesity has never been viewed as cool…  Okay, I guess it has been viewed as a sign of success, though.    Mr. Katz discussed phrases that link food to the ideas of success and money:  “bread winner”, “bringing home the bacon”, “making dough”.  In our culture, the ability to provide food signifies success, protection, and love.  He also said that for most of human history, physical activity was unavoidable and calories were scarce and hard to get and that recently this has been reversed.  In light of this reversal, until we stop associating food with success, we’re going to have a problem.

Back to the idea of stopping the spread of a disease across a social network through stigma…  This reminds me of quarantine and isolation, how we’ve dealt with leprosy (which was I guess effective, but terrible).  And, it’s the exact opposite of how we’re dealing with AIDS (many groups are working to end the stigma against being HIV positive).  This difference in approach to dealing with the threats of obesity and AIDS strikes me as strange, especially as I would argue that AIDS is a much more dangerous disease.

So, is social stigma an okay tool?  I guess it’s effective.  But is it acceptable?  Can we harness the power of our social networks to stop obesity before it starts and prevent it from spreading along those very networks?


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Economic survival or economic security — what’s acceptable?

17 Apr Final notice bill

Recently, Sociological Images has had some coverage on what it takes to make ends meet in a household budget.  (Here’s an admission – up until I read the book Making Ends Meet in college, I thought the expression was “making ends meat” and was very confused about what people were doing with the ends of meat in order to get by.  This is almost as good as my thinking that the Elton John song was “Hold Me Closer Tony Danza”.)

As comes up every so often, people are challenging the notion that the federal poverty level is actually workable in reality.  (Here’s the thing, I’m going to disagree with this particular challenge, but recognize that I get that living at 100% of the poverty level is almost unworkable and generally miserable.)  This time, the challenge is coming from Wider Opportunities for Women.  Before getting into the current issue, here’s the background info that you need to know on the federal poverty guidelines:

Federal poverty guidelines were developed in the 1960s based on the thrifty food basket.  The idea was that the average family spends 1/3 of their income on food, so if you could figure out what food a family needed to consume to get by and multiply its cost by 3, you could find a basic level of income needed to get by.  (All of you social science people are probably already seeing flaws in this plan, but remember I didn’t make it up.)    I remember reading the actual list for the original food basket in a Soc class and it was gross (granted, tastes change over time).  (Unfortunately, my search skills seem to be failing me once again and I’m unable to find it.)

Although we may not recognize it in our daily lives, the cost of food has dropped drastically since the federal poverty guidelines were instituted.  (But, it seems like food prices may be on the rise again.)  So, under current economic conditions, none of us spent 1/3 of our income on food.  It seems to make sense that the less money you make, the higher percentage of it that you spend on basic necessities (like food), but there are so many necessities (housing, utilities, transportation, etc.) that there’s no way that 2x what you spend on food is enough to cover all the rest of them.

I guess that was a lot of background…

So, Wider Opportunities for Women is arguing that there’s a big difference between the federal poverty level and what it really takes to get by.  They’re calling this the difference between “economic survival” and “economic security”.  And, generally, I think that they’re right, but what bothers me is how high their “economic security” numbers are.  They say that a single person needs $30,012 to be secure.  And, I can tell you that I’ve spent the last few years making a lot less than that.  It hasn’t always been fun, but I’ve managed to set a budget and make it work.  I’ve managed to save, to put money in my 401(k), and to buy a car (not new, but new to me).  I don’t think I’m a particular thrifty person, either.  For a family of four, they’re calling for a minimum income of $67,920.  What?!  That’s all well and good, but it’s definitely middle class, not just a minimum.

You can think that this is just one crazy study that won’t go anywhere.  (Although it’s already been picked up in the NY Times, too.)  But, it concerns me because of how the numbers might be used in the future.  As Wider Opportunities for Women says in their study (The BEST Index), “The BEST Index is a starting point for workers who want to achieve financial stability, and for the policy­makers, advocates, researchers and service providers who help workers build security.”  I guess I’m concerned that they’re going to push for us to start offering additional government programs and benefits to people making up to these levels instead of the current standard (people normally qualify for benefits  at income levels up to 200% or so of federal poverty level, depending on specific benefits and programs.)  This is a problem because the median household income in the US is only $44,389 (Take that stat with a grain of salt as it comes from Wikipedia, but the Census website is entirely too time consuming and difficult to navigate).  So, where are we going to get money to supplement the income of way more than half of the population?

I realize that this post is trending a little more into political territory than I normally go, but I’m kind of stuck on thinking about it.  Coming from Legal Aid, a lot of my friends got by on a lot less than Wider Opportunities for Women’s suggested income levels.  I get that a lot of us have great, helpful families and support systems.  But, I’m kind of thinking that if we can do it, other people can, too.


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Come join Slate (and me!)

31 Mar The Hive Logo

Slate’s coming to Cleveland!

I know it hasn’t yet been discussed here, but I’m a big fan of Slate’s Political Gabfest.  (I even tried to concoct a plan to meet Emily Bazelon as a surprise for a friend’s birthday.  It didn’t end up happening, but I did have a lovely e-mail correspondence with Ms. Bazelon.)  I listen to it every Friday morning and look forward to engaging in my own internal dialogue with the gabfest participants.  (That way, I always win the arguement!)

Slate’s been going out on the road recently, having live events around the country.  I’d been hoping for one to come here, but thought that there was no chance of that happening.  (Unfortunately, Northeast Ohio is not known as a happening area…)  So, color me surprised when I find this yesterday: An Invitation from Slate.

David Plotz, host of my very favorite podcast (the previously mentioned Gabfest) and Slate editor, will be moderating a panel on ending childhood obesity.  Unfortunately, this event seems to have the worst name ever:  “The Slate Hive Event: Fighting Childhood Obesity, Sponsored by Cleveland Clinic”.  Maybe they couldn’t pick a name and just decided to include every relevant word?

Anyway, Slate’s bringing together thought leaders on the topic (everyone from doctors, to authors, and even the architect of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign) and we’re all invited to come, too!  I’ve already published my thoughts on the subject here and on Slate, so we’ll see how they stack up with what the experts have to say.

I’m signed up to go.  Want to come?  (Oh, it’s free!)

 

Highland Square is a Food Desert No More!

30 Mar Highland Square

You know how I posted about food deserts a few days ago and wrote that my neighborhood lacks a local grocery store?  Well, Highland Square is a food desert no more!  (Well, soon anyway.)

Today, The Akron Beacon Journal announced that we’re going to be getting a Mustard Seed (fancy locally owned health and organic food type grocery store).  It seems that I wasn’t the only one concerned about the lack fresh food.  The City of Akron owns some of the retail space in the area and put out a request for bids from grocery stores a while back.

I guess this has been in the works for a while and I’ve been completely oblivious.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic made the announcement this afternoon. The city picked Mustard Seed, which already has stores in Montrose and Solon, from four grocers who submitted proposals.

Plusquellic made his decision after meeting with Highland Square business leaders, neighborhood residents and leaders of the Highland Square Neighborhood Association.

Also, apparently we have a neighborhood association

The location of the new store is only about 1/4 mile from my house.  Yea for being able to walk to the store when I realize that I’ve forgotten some vital ingredient.  (This happens pretty much every time I cook.)

And, the best part, according to one of the commenters “the store will be designed to be affordable and teach people how to cook healthy”.  Does this mean free cooking classes?  Because if so, I am there!

Of course, not all the commenters were happy.  (Have you ever seen all the commenters be happy?  I think that’s statistically impossible.)  Generally, the complaints were that low-income people in the neighborhood (as I said previously, I live in a mixed-income community) don’t eat organic food or cook anyway (Way to stereotype!) or that the store would be too expensive for many residents to afford.

It’s true that Mustard Seed is expensive (there’s no way that I could afford to do all of my shopping there), but it’s going to be fantastic to be able to walk to a grocery store.  I can already walk to a library, a coffee shop (locally owned, thank you!), and a Chipotle.  This neighborhood is getting better and better!

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