Food Inequalities

Greenwood. (Health and Medical Issues Today). May 2021. 207p. ISBN 9781440864308. $41. REF
Using the three-part structure typical of the “Health and Medical Issues Today” series, Allen (sociology and African American studies, Lewis Univ., IL) makes a valiant effort to cover the entire American history of oppressing marginalized people as it relates to food inequality and insecurity, spanning socioeconomics, geography, policy, and activism. She surveys racial and gender discrimination, health impacts, wage disparities, the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program, immigration, consumer manipulation, labor exploitation, federal school lunches, agribusiness, and other issues. The book also includes short case studies, a glossary, a resource directory (journals, books, websites), and a bibliography. Throughout, Allen refers to the theory that food inequality results from lacking access to supermarkets, and she doesn’t cite a 2018 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that found that demand, not supply, was the driving force. Allen often valorizes food choice as an expression of cultural identity but also claims that choice is an illusion, because circumstances and marketing are determinative. There are no footnotes, and the unsupported assertions, sweeping generalizations, anecdotes, and lack of evidence result in a work that begs for academic rigor.
VERDICT Allen aggregates much information and describes pervasive, distressing connections between food and systemic social inequality; the book’s ambitious but unscholarly approach, however, contrasts with such scholarly treatments as Alison Hope Alkon’s Cultivating Food Justice.
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