What the World Eats

Play episode
fresh fruit vegetables and meats
Photo by Dan Gold

Dave Bast and Liz Waid look at the book “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats”. This book shows the different ways people prepare and eat food around the world.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Dave Bast.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Follow along on YouTube
Voice 3 

“Peter Menzel and I invited ourselves to dinner with 30 families in 24 countries. We wanted to explore people’s oldest social activity: eating.”

Voice 1 

These are the words of writer Faith D’Aluisio. Peter Menzel is her husband. He is also a photographer – he takes beautiful pictures. Together, they travel the world. Faith writes about the things and people they see. And Peter takes pictures.

Voice 2 

In the mid 1990s, Faith and Peter began to notice how people’s diets across the world were changing. They decided to write a book about their observations. Today’s Spotlight is on this book called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

Voice 1 

Food is a very important part of family life. It is part of everyone’s history and culture. Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel wanted to show how diet affects health and culture. And they wanted to present this information in a beautiful way. In their book, Faith explains:

Voice 3 

“To learn more about how diets are changing, we watched normal families all over the world. We watched as they farmed, shopped at the market, cooked, and ate. At the end of each visit, we created a picture of the family. In the picture, the family is surrounded by all the food they normally eat in one week.”

hamburger and fries
Photo by Louis Hansel
Voice 2 

Each chapter in the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, starts with this large picture of a family. All the food they eat in a week is spread around them. Under the picture are the names of the family members. There are also the names of the city and country where they live.

Voice 1 

The information also includes how the family prepares their food. Some families use a stove or a small electric microwave to cook their food. Other families cook around a fire on the ground. The book also explains how each family keeps their food fresh. Many families use an electric refrigerator to keep food cold. But other families must eat everything they prepare immediately. They have no way to keep their food fresh.

Voice 2 

For each picture, D’Aluisio and Menzel organized the families’ weekly food into groups – like meat, fruits and vegetables, milk products, grains and bread, and drinks. They added up the money spent on each food group. Then they found the total amount of money each family spends on food in one week. Nick Page and Marina Santee share some examples from the book:

Voice 4 

The Madsen family lives in Cap Hope village in Greenland. Five people live in the home. They spend $277 each week on food. They also hunt animals to eat fresh meat. These are animals that live in ice cold water such as polar bears, walrus, and arctic geese. Many people in Greenland hunt these large animals for their meat.

Voice 5 

The Mendoza family live in Todos Santos Cuchumatan, Guatemala. Eight people live in the home. They spend $25 a week on food. The Mendoza family only eat meat less than once a week. They spend most of their money on fruits and vegetables like bananas, zapote, passion fruit, avocados, green beans, and red chili peppers.

Voice 4 

The Al Haggan family lives in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Eight people live in the Al Haggan home. They spend $221 on food each week. Much of the food they eat is imported from other countries. They buy it at a western style market.

Voice 5 

The Revis family live in North Carolina, in the United States. There are four people in the family. They spend $342 each week on food. They spend a lot of their money on fast food from eating places like McDonalds, Taco Bell and pizza places.

Voice 4 

The Aboubakar family is from Darfur, Sudan. But they live as refugees in the country of Chad. D’jimia is a single mother. She has five children. The family spends a little over one dollar on food each week. Food does not cost as much here as in some other places. In other countries, where food costs more, this amount would be equal to about $24. Most of their meals are a thick liquid porridge made from the grain sorghum. D’jimia also receives food aid in her refugee camp. Some days the family lacks food. They must make difficult decisions. They must decide who gets more food, and who gets less.

Voice 1 

These are just a few of the examples of the families in the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. All of the pictures in the book show the different food cultures of people around the world. Some people grow most of their food on their own land. Other people buy almost everything at a market. Others do not even cook much of their food. They buy food that is already prepared.

Voice 2 

People reading the book can also see how money influences food. Some families have enough money to eat any kind of food they want. They can buy food imported from other countries at the market. But many people must eat only what grows in their own area, depending on the season.  Some families eat a large amount of food. And other families must divide a limited amount of food.

berries and crackers
Photo by Brooke Lark
Voice 1 

The book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats is not about food politics. The book’s authors, D’Aluisio and Menzel, are not exploring why hunger exists in the world. They are only sharing what they experienced. The purpose of the book is to help people understand how other people live.

Voice 2 

The book also encourages people to look at their own family and how they eat. Remember the Revis family from the United States? After seeing their picture in the book, the Revis family felt shame about the food they were eating. Mrs. Revis told D’Aluisio and Menzel:

Voice 6

“Everyone in our family felt very troubled by the large amount and kinds of food on the table for the picture. Before my son eats something now, he will say to me, ‘Mom, how healthy do you think this food is?’ That never happened before”.

Voice 1 

People have different customs but we share many similarities. D’Aluisio and Menzel found that around the world people love food. And people in every culture love to welcome new friends to eat with their family. What are the cultural food customs in your family?  What foods are common in your culture? You can share your thoughts on the script page of this program on our website at www.radioenglish.net.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rebekah Schipper. The producer was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “What the World Eats”.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


What kinds of foods do you eat every week? Do you have a healthy diet? Write your answer in the comments below.

Join the discussion

  • From: ssramossilva@gmail.com
    To: spotlight program
    Subject: to answers the questions below
    Date: Friday 07, August 2020
    Location: São Paulo city, São Paulo Brasil

    Dear Liz Waid, Dave Bast, and Rebehak Schipper

    First, I want to thank you for bringing us more one great article, thank you very much.
    Question 1 – What kinds of foods do you eat every week?
    Answer 1 – In the morning, as a breakfast I eat fruits, orange juice, grains, and I drink a cup of coffee.
    Question 2 – Do you have a healthy diet?
    Answer 2 – I think so. I do not eat meat, I do not drink alcohol, I do not eat junk foods, I sleep very well and I do not have nightmare during th night. Also, I go to the gym three time a week.
    God bless you
    Severino Ramos.

    • In my culture we eat many kinds of food but, the common food in my culture rice with fish or rice with meat or rice with chickens usualy we eat this food every week. Sometime we eat food from resturant but not all the time.

  • My family eat healthy food, vegetables and fruit, rice, I dont like the meals. We are modifying our habits alimentaries, drinking more water and eats more vegetables.

  • I am used to eat local food (fish or shellfish boiled with palm oil and spices), beans, rice, meat, chicken, french fries, pasta, cheese, a lot of milk, chocolate, tapioca (other Brazilian food) and juice. I have been attempting to be more healthy, I have been drinking fruit juice rather than soda, for example, but it’s a little hard, sometimes. I love fast food and candies, however I think that the health is more important.

  • I eat eggs, bread and drink coffee nearly every day. I don’t imagine my day without any meat as well. Meat must be either in my soup or in my second dish. Meat can be different. I like all kind of meat from chicken to beef. I think meat should be on a table of each people around the world. Even if a person has a healthy diet.

  • i eat many kinds of food and follow a healthy lifestyle . but i have an open day , which is friday and i often eat fast food on it like pizza , mcdonalds , pasta and so on

  • Yes, I have a healthy diet. I really achieved a perfect weight. In every week I eat eggs and chicken.
    I effected with this broadcast and i will change some of my food behavior.

  • Maybe for now it’s chicken with rice or bread.
    Yes , my family 80% meals are healthy and delicious.
    But to became more healthy i should cook my meal by my self

  • I just recently to eat healthy food such as vegetables and fruits and a little oily, I will never spend money for bad food like fast-food or not healthy !

  • I prefer to eat at home than restaurants. I like healthy food more than fast food.In the morning I drink orange juice with eggs, cheese, olives. Also, lunchtimes, I have fettuccine chicken pasta. And lots of healthy food.

  • Not found the meals specific every week same the meals , my family don’t like the healthy food put eat fruits between the meals example apple , panana and kiwi with Nutella .

  • the kind of food is : rice,grains, bread,Vegetables, dates,coffee and more(Thank god).
    no dont have a healthy diet,but i wish do that.
    Thanks for this great topic!

  • In our family, we eat more meat we only add vegetables to the meat so that it will add nutrition to us. I would say that it is not a healthy diet for my family.

  • Here in my country Saudi Arabia, we almost eat every day rice with meat or chicken or fish. So we have to take a portion of protein whether its meat or chicken or fish. Also we can eat with the rice and meat some cooked vegetables like potato or beans. Beside a salad. Mmmmm i think we don’t have that much healthy diet. I think we should reduce the amount of meats we eat .

  • I eat in breakfast cheese sandwich or eggs. in lunch, I eat rice with chicken with salad or pasta .in dinner I eat beans with eggs or peas with tuna and vegetables

  • 1 The family meal in Viet Nam, we have from 3 to 5 dishes.its depend on financal coditions each families. Soup is the mean dish in a meal. it helps people easy to swallow than the dry dishes . The commond food in here are rice and meat or fish , vegetables. Impossible without fish sauce or soy sauce.
    2. No, i dont. i always eat fast food and coke. that makes me have a lot of pimples and skinny. and i am trying to eat less.

  • Every morning I eat fried donut and tea that is our traditional fruit . it is not healthy to our body but i like it.My mather manage what kind of food to cook everyday but we never doubt how we eat healthy style cause she is a good cooker for my family. We spent 125dolar every week on food. One of the thing that i will be able to describe i need to eat more vegetables and fruits because of you spotlight.
    Thank you.!

  • There is no specific kind that I eat every week, but it may be milk products that is the most, and less meat because I don’t like it.
    No, I have never followed a healthy diet but I hope.

  • Sometimes i eat healthy food like vegetables and fruits but usually i eat fast food.
    I don’t have healthy diet

  • I like vegetables so the kind of food is almost fruits and vegetables. but I study at a university where I’m provided with a daily meal, so in my meal, there are meat, vegetable, fruits, egg, fish. every meal, I eat is full of nutrients. So, I think I have a healthy diet ^_^

  • Hi everyone, what my family eats in a week, generally is rice, eggs, bread, fish and chiken; some kind of fruits like oranges, bananas, Apple and papayas. Thanks for sharing

  • I try to have a healthy diet and I avoid some things like sugar, salt, and caffeine.
    In my family, we eat many kinds of food but for the main meal, we usually eat rice with meat, fish or chicken.

  • Vietnam has a lot of food. There are some famous dishes such as banh mi, pho, .. But in normal life, the food I eat every week is rice. I love eat rice with another dish such as soup, stir-fry, stew from vegetables and meat. I heard that eating white rice is not healthy but I really love it. To protect my health and keep my weight, I eat less rice and more vegetables and fruit.

  • The kinds of food which I eat every week is: rice, vegetable, fruit, fish, pork, beef, chicken, milk, sweets cake, and sometime vegetarian, ..
    in my diet usually have more vegetable than meat and starch, and I limit eating red meat bad for healthy and instead by white meat fish or chicken, in addition I also eating many fruits, so i think I had a healthy diet for myself.

  • In my family we eat many kinds of food as fruits , vegetables , rice , chicken and meat and some kind of fish , some times we eat healthy and another time we intake some fast food and pizza and eat in restaurants .

  • Because I was born into a modern society, my family enjoys a high level of freedom and does not adhere to any dietary restrictions. In the normal course of things, my family spends between $30 and $40 dollars every week on food, and we may spend much more if we throw a party. Meat, fruits, and vegetables are staples in our diet… When we are working under strict deadlines and don’t have time to prepare a meal, we may order fast food from KFC or another restaurant. I understand that eating well is really essential for everyone, so I make an effort to spend more time in the kitchen preparing nutritious meals that we can all enjoy together.

  • I eat difrent food in every week sometimes I eat yemeni food and sometimes I eat syrian food. but I love Syrian food because it’s delicious food. now I live in Saudi Arabia usually we eat kabsa, it’s number one in my delicious menu.

  • Every day of the week, I eat the same types of foods that my mother prepares for me. However, it is a little different, for example, my families eat soup with lots of vegetables and potatoes, perhaps because my mother enjoys cooking them for her families, and she does not buy any fast food because it is bad for health.

  • Aside from the obvious fish and meat, vegetables are types of food that I consider to be absolutely necessary in daily meals. Vegetables are very beneficial to one’s health since they supply the body with vitamins and fiber materials. It aids in the digestion of food in your stomach. In addition to lowering cholesterol levels and increasing folic acid levels in the blood, eating veggies may help you lose weight. I follow a healthy diet; yet, many people believe that a good diet must be followed to the letter. It wasn’t anything like it at all. To maintain a healthy diet, it is necessary to replace processed meals with fresh, unprocessed foods. If you don’t want to consume too much greasy food, try to eat enough of veggies. And nothing surpasses the comfort of home cooking. If you have the time, cooking at home rather than going out to eat is recommended since it allows you to be more in charge of your food.

  • In breakfast I always eat a sandwich includes an egg, French fries and cheese. My mom sometimes cook beans and falafel l just eat falafel l don’t prefer beans. In lunch I and my family always eat chicken ,rice and salad. In dinner this days I just drink a cup of milk

  • In mt culture we eat many kinds of food,
    Rice with fish and meat or chicken but me eat healthy food cooked in home eggs with spinach and toast or chicken with vogetables , don’t like eat outside ✅

  • I live in VietNam and I was born in a countryside , so, when I was a child, rices are a main foods, beside meat, vegetable. But, when I go to the city to learning and working, I often eat fast food. Therefore, my health is decrease and my weight is increase to much.

  • The book is very useful. Food is important our life. We eat heathy food we are heathy. So i want to read this book to learn how to use food in my life.

  • I think my family doesn’t spend a lot of money to the food. My eat content is
    1. In the morning (bread and eggs and tea)
    2. On the lunch (rice and chicken and salad)
    3. At the dinner (pizza or burger or meat)
    Between them I eat some snacks

  • I eat kabsa (rice with chicken or meat) every day it’s very important in my day and it’s the best food in KSA,No I didn’t

  • we bought the food from the market wich is imported from other countries but we cook it in the home.our diet have big amounte of carbohydrate and fats and littel amonte of vegetable.so i thing our diet is not healthy

  • we buy the food from the market wich is imported from other countries but we cook it in the home.our diet have big amounte of carbohydrate and fats and littel amonte of vegetable.so i thing our diet is not healthy

More from this show

Episode 2