CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 16 . . . . December 22, 2017
Guaranteed to raise readers' food literacy scores, this colourful, fun and fact-filled book is sure to appeal. It draws readers in from the outset with a short food literacy quiz, followed by information contained within seven main chapters.
The first chapter discusses the history of food, from the earliest hunters and gatherers to the rise of farming and changes to farming techniques over time, and the development of high yield crops. There are amusing "menus" from ancient times as well as a recipe for hare soup from 1824.
Since kids don't always know where their food comes from, the second chapter will show them how food gets from farm to table. Topics in this chapter include conventional versus organic farming, an honest look at factory farms, GMO raised foods versus hybrids, fishing, and various forms of food processing (canning, pasteurization, fermentation, smoking, drying and adding preservatives).
The third chapter discusses food shopping and the history of grocery stores, from the first markets in town centres 2,000 years ago to the hypermarkets, such as Wal-Mart and Target, and the wholesale clubs, such as Costco, of the present day. It is heartening to know that the number of farmers' markets in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 20 years as consumers want locally sourced food. This chapter also names the Big 10, the ten large companies that make almost all of the 38,000 different products available on supermarket shelves, and includes information about fast food consumption.
The importance of eating a wide variety of foods from different food groups for maximum health benefits is featured in the fourth chapter. Here readers will also learn how humans distinguish between different tastes (they will be familiar with sweet, salty, sour and bitter, but might not know about "umami", which is related to glutamates), how senses affect taste, and about the damaging effects of processed meats, sugar and trans fats.
Environmental issues related to food production are discussed in the fifth chapter. Though readers will likely have heard the terms "carbon footprint" and "water footprint", this chapter introduces a new term, "land footprint", a measurement used to describe how much land is required to produce something. Here, there is also information about power used in farming, from growing crops to fertilizer production and powering vehicles, and processing, packaging and shipping. Biomass, solar power and wind turbines to generate energy and water-smart farming offer possible solutions to environmental issues.
Chapter Six is devoted to food from around the world, with examples of "extreme" foods: curried chicken ice cream, python patties and goat eyeballs. There is a nine-country comparison of global spending on food, dining habits of the typical American family, and suggestions for becoming more food-wise.
Finally, the last chapter provides statistics related to family eating habits (mostly U.S. centered), such as who does the food prep, how often families eat out, and how much of every dollar earned is spent on food. Children will also be introduced to the terms "food desert", "food swamp" and "food insecure" and will read about ways in which they can increase their food literacy quotient.
With its attractive, but occasionally "busy" layout, this bright and colourful infographic book is full of valuable information and includes cartoon-like illustrations, maps, colour and black and white photos, timelines, pictographs and charts to support the text. Text boxes provide additional information. Even though there is a definite American bent, the information is, nevertheless, useful, but some of it might be a bit difficult for the younger members of the target audience to interpret and understand. A table of contents, an extensive glossary, an index and a brief list of books for further study are provided. There is also a long list of selected sources, though it is rather daunting and too advanced for the target audience.
Definitely worthy of purchase, Eat Up! An Infographic Exploration of Food is an eye-opener.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.