“30 Families; 24 Countries; 600 Meals.” That’s what is promised in the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by photographers Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio. This book truly opened my eyes at the extreme disparity between wasteful, over-consumers to the poor and impoverish.

The idea behind the photo essay is simple: travel the globe and photograph families in different cultures posing with piles all the food they eat over the course of a week. Besides making for nice photographs, the book acts as an informative introduction to food variety and issues of scarcity, plenty, production, and cooking from around the globe.

The simplest way to illustrate the disparity is to mention the two extremes: the poorest family in Chad, makes do with a weekly allotment of grains, goat meat, dried fish, a few limes, water… and that’s about it. The price: $1.23. This is to feed a family of six for a week.


Contrast this with the most extravagant American family, whose photograph is a smorgasborg of gut-busting, bloated nourishment, barely able to fit the image’s frame, for $341.98 a week. This is for a family of four.


There’s also something very telling about cultural differences, and not just in quantity of food, but in the selection of food, from places of relatively equal economic status where fresh foods are emphasized versus those where junk, fast, and pre-prepared food is. To find out more, take a peek at 15 of the families in this stunning TIME pictorial.

Personally, I found this rather mind-blowing. I think I’ll look at my $1.25 cup of tea in a different light.