Hungry Planet exhibit at the Burke Museum dishes out global food knowledge

Visitors contemplate a photo of a family in Ecuador with the $31.55 worth of food they consume in a week (Photo by Devin McDonald)

Global methods of agriculture are changing rapidly. Fast food chains like McDonald’s are spreading around the globe. And here in the US, we’re eating more and more processed foods.

So it’s the perfect moment to take a step back and analyze what the world eats and how we’ve all adapted to the modernization of the food industry.

The Burke Museum, on the UW campus, is currently hosting Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, an exhibit that exposes the eating habits of 21st century families around the world.

Photographer Peter Menzel and author Faith D’Aluisio spent several years visiting families and documenting the food they eat in 24 different countries from Japan to Bosnia.

The Burke show takes some of the most compelling images from the resulting Hungry Planet book, and pairs them with interactive exhibits geared toward kids, as well as displays on the foods that are native to our region.

As they enter the exhibit, museum-goers are greeted by portraits of families from countries that stretch across all of the populated continents. In front of these families are all of the groceries that they consume in a week.

A photo by Peter Menzel from the Hungry Planet book shows a Turkish family eating breakfast.

This presentation encourages the visitor to analyze their own eating habits without pushing them to any particular conclusion.

“It’s rare that we get to observe the eating habits of those in other countries,” said Dennis Ortblad, a fellow visitor to the exhibit on the day I was there, “I am surprised to see how prevalent Coca-Cola products are in family’s diets.”

Conversations like this developed all around the exhibit, creating a rare atmosphere where the visitors learned from each other as well as the photos and that adorned the walls. Museum-goers observed that the diets of families in rural settings appeared to be healthier than those of urban environments. A voice rose above the murmur observing that it’s easier to access processed food when living close to a modern food market.

Hungry Planet gives visitors a valuable opportunity to reflect on an aspect of their lifestyle that they might give much thought, and to consider how it compares to the habits of their fellow humans.

Ortblad was right when saying that this is a rare learning experience for a person to have. After realizing our place in a global food market we can be more aware of the products we consume and the industries that produce them.

A diverse group of Seattleites react to the Hungry Planet exhibit at the Burke Museum. (Photo by Devin McDonald)

The Hungry Planet exhibit doesn’t overtly call for a “food revolution.” But it does bring a valuable global perspective to our individual diets.

The exhibit runs through June 10th, and is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. 
Admission is $10, but is free on the first Thursday of every month.

If looking at pictures of food gets your stomach grumbling, PCC is hosting a series of tastings of different regional recipes tied into the exhibit.

Devin McDonald produced this story as part of the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative‘s Arts and Culture Reporting Camp.