by Marion Nestle
Dec 2 2011

Recent books about hunger and obesity: quick reviews

John Cawley, editor.  The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Obesity, Oxford University Press 2011.  The editor says this book is intended to be a “Rosetta Stone, …….that explains how different disciplines are approaching the same topic.”  Its 47 chapters come from contributors from different social science disciplines, each approaching obesity from their own perspectives: demography, anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, and fat studies, for example.  Other sections of the book deal with the causes and consequences of obesity, available data for studying it, and policy approaches to prevention and treatment such as community intervention, drugs and bariatric surgery, food taxes, advertising, and behavioral techniques.   This book is a good entry point to the literature on a vast array of subjects related to obesity, but it does not get much into the biological basis for obesity or weight control or the biological reasons why maintaining a healthy body weight is so difficult.

Sasha Abramsky, Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of American Hunger and How to Fix It, PoliPoint Press, 2009.  Abramsky is a journalist who set out to report on hunger in America, its political and economic causes, and its tragic consequences.  The personal stories are heartbreaking and infuriating and should inspire readers to do something to address income inequities.

George Kent, Ending Hunger Worldwide, Paradigm, 2011.  I first heard of Kent’s work when I was researching articles and books about the right to food. Then a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Kent has been writing about the right to food, nutrition, and hunger for many years.  This short book is his manifesto, clear and to the point:

People commonly ask how it will be possible to feed future generations.  The question is insulting.  Why ask how people are to be fed, as if this had to be done by an external agent?  Most people are motivated to provide for themselves, and only need decent opportunities to do that….Who, when not deprived of the means, would not feed themselves and their families?