The Humanity & reality behind #StrugglePlates

Nov 28, 2013 @ 9:39 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 3 Comments

It is the day after Thanksgiving or Genocidal Day . If you are fortunate enough, you may have some scrumptious leftovers that you will be feasting on for the next couple of days. On a major holiday like Thanksgiving FB, Twitter, & Instagram is swarming with pictures of food. This can be both a good and bad thing. Since the advent of Twitter/IG it has become almost obligatory that you take a picture of the delicious food you are consuming. But lately, I have  seen tweets of people lamenting that they would love to share a picture of what they are eating, but they are afraid of the slander and the shade that may follow if they pick the wrong filter or if the food is not photographed well.

According, to social media users  food that does not picture well or doesn’t look “pretty” is somehow inherently “bad” food that doesn’t taste good. Furthermore, the people on social media also assert that food made with cheap products, is also flavorless food. Thus the perfect storm was brewing and out of that the hashag#struggleplate was born. #Struggleplate describes food that is “ugly” and cheaply made. There is also an IG account called “cookingforbae” that collects pictures of “ugly” food for the sole purpose of trolling and judging the foods that people eat.

I am of the belief that food is not only personal, it is also political. When 47 millions or roughly 14% of American households are currently food insecure and rely of SNAP (food stamps) to feed themselves and their family, there is no denying that politics plays a huge issue in the matter.  Essentially, the United States has made  a conscious decision to not combat food insecurity, which is a bold political stance made obvious when Congress voted to cut the SNAP program. The average recipient of SNAP benefits has to make due with $1.49 per meal. The reason I bring up SNAP in the discussion of #struggleplates is because most Americans don’t have the luxury of being “foodies” or “ethical vegans.” It takes an extreme amount of privilege to be able to eat out multiple times during the week and eat at swanky restaurants, in over-prived gentrified areas. It also takes an extreme amount of privilege to live in an area that has quality grocery stores that is well stocked with fruits and vegetables. It also takes an extreme amount of privilege to be able to cut animal products from your diet, especially when you live in a food desert, are chronically poor, and when eating what is convenient has become a compulsory act of survival. When you are struggling to feed yourself choices as at it concerns to food becomes a luxury!

Whenever, I see a #struggleplate hashtag I cringe. I cringe because I feel that it is very disrespectful to pass judgement on what people eat. As stated I earlier, food is very political and personal. Food provides comfort, nourishment, and sustenance all things needed for basic human survival. #StrugglePlates have a poverty porn and ethnocentric lens to then. I am Haitian-American and I eat certain foods that may not photograph well no matter what filter I use, but there is no doubt that the food is flavorful! It is ethnocentric to judge someones plate of food simply because you can’t decipher what was used to create the food. Poverty porn allows us to troll poor people who dare use boxed mac n’ cheese or hot dogs to make a meal.  Shaming the poor the is an American hobby, but many of us feel exceptionally entitled to shame the foods that people eat. We have no issues with labeling food as either good, bad, clean, and unclean. The politics of religion and the medical community definitely dictates how we police the food practices of other.  However, never do we consider the circumstances that dictate why people eat what they eat?

Truth of the matter is some people are literally struggling to eat and that is not a laughing matter. Food for thought!

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3 Responses to “ The Humanity & reality behind #StrugglePlates ”

  1. Maybe these social media food snobs should read the cookbooks of Vertemae Grosvenor, culinary anthropologist. Her Vertemae Cooks in America’s Family Kitchen was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Instead of judging the food people eat, maybe we should look at it as a way of getting to know people and their struggles.

  2. Super thankful for this post. It got me thinking about some things in terms of photography itself, as a photographer. I just posted and mentioned your post in my post Food Photography and Classism on my photography blog, Drift Sojourn.

  3. […] The Humanity & reality behind #StrugglePlates […]

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