Free Essay. The Impact of Food on Human Culture and Societies

Published: 2023-01-26
Free Essay. The Impact of Food on Human Culture and Societies
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Food Social psychology Nutrition Human behavior Community
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1179 words
10 min read

Food is known for providing humans with all forms of nutrients that they need to live and grow. Over time, food has always had an exponential impact on people's culture. Food is a critical component of humans' survival and plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of various relationships which form distinct diverse cultures globally. Hence, the emergence of food studies which is a contemporary field of study that evaluates the complex relationships among multiple aspects of life. Food studies focus on the impact of food on human culture and society. Studying foods helps sociologists look at people's relationships with what they eat and reveals a lot of information regarding them. Food choices linked to a particular society expose the background, passions, beliefs, personality, assumptions, and knowledge of those people.

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Food and society are vital components in shaping people's culture. According to Pollan (2008), "We forget that historically people have eaten for a great many reasons other than biological necessity. Food is [therefore] about pleasure, community, family and spirituality, our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity" (p. 8). That is why Hauck-Lawson (2004) came up with the rationale of food voice and suggested that what an individual eats or chooses not to consume communicates his or her aspects in connection to cultural and emotional identity. Food choices harbor a lot of information with respect to personal as well as social identity (Alvesson & Billing, 2009). With that mind, the field of food studies has over time challenged scholars to look deeper into the typical daily occurrences attached to that ordinary practice of eating. Hence, helping sociologists to debunk various stereotypes and promote acceptance across groups and individuals.

Kittler, Sucher, & Nelms (2012) came up with the term food habits to explain the manner in which people use food. The term food habits incorporate a wide range of factors such as how food is acquired, chosen, shared, served, and eaten among people of different cultural backgrounds. The importance of understanding the food habits process is that it gives sociologists a clear understanding of the uniqueness attached to each community. Kittler et al., (2012) explained that food is a critical part of people's culture, and that is why various societies spend so much time, creativity, money, and energy on eating. There is a trendy saying that states You are what you eat." That saying epitomizes the rationale of that food has the power to showcase a person's identity. Sadella & Burroughs (1981) surveyed and indicated that there is a connection between what people eat, how others think about them, and how they visualize themselves. Hence, the emergence of dietary habits that can be divided into five categories, namely gourmet food, vegetarian, health food, synthetic food, and first food. People associate a particular personality trait for each choice of food.

Sadella & Burroughs (1981) surveyed people who are fond of eating synthetic and fast food are linked with religious and conservative habits. Individuals that like eating healthy food are associated with activism. Vegetarians are associated with Pacific cultures. Gourmet food eaters are associated with sophisticated and liberal living habits. It is of the essence to note that stereotypes linked to various foods are derived from self-descriptions and personality reviews that are filled by people whose diet fall under the highlighted categories (Alvesson & Billing, 2009). Psychological and social factors have a significant impact on individuals food choices and habits. Larson & Story (2009) undertook a study to determine those psychological and social factors which influence people of different cultural backgrounds to choose what they consume. That study found out that group approval or disapproval of a particular food has a significant impact on food choice of the involved individuals. This explains why certain foods are associated with distinct societies (Alvesson & Billing, 2009). Hence, making food qualify as an expression of cultural identity because people eat them to satisfy both nutritional and emotional needs.

Food has a significant symbolic meaning for people. Research indicates that food symbolizes their association with a wide range of meaningful experiences in their lives (Hauck-Lawson, A., 2004). An excellent example of symbolism attached to that phenomena is the food references which is linked to common expressions such as bread. When people sit together to eat, the act of sharing is referred to as breaking the bread with one another. Such a feeling symbolizes a setting where members of a society come together to share what they have. Also, bread indicates a social standing even in the context of religion because in Christianity, it represents the body of Christ. Hence, Christians can derive a social identity by sharing bread because it symbolizes what they believe.

In the aspect of culture, food defines who is and who is not part of a particular culture. Culture is normally defined as the values, beliefs, and attitudes that are accepted and practiced by a specific group of people (Larson & Story, 2009). Culture is transferred from one generation to another by learning. The food choice associated with a particular group of people acts as their cultural identity. It is of the essence to note that food choice connects them to their ethnic and religious beliefs because eating acts as a daily reaffirmation of ones' cultural identity (Alvesson & Billing, 2009). That is why most individuals link the foods that they ate during their childhood with a lot of memories of their community. Therefore, food is part of who people are and what they become in the future. Foods from one's culture, act as a comfort aspect when one wants to feel his or her origin.

Cultural identity is diverse. Hence, it is not restricted to specifics foods only because there are other factors which can be considered to define characteristics of a defined group of people (Larson & Story, 2009). However, the proper use of food choice and variable linked to eating habits play a critical role in categorizing people as per their cultural roots. Other factors such as social class can impact food choice because when people are deciding what to eat, they also look into its affordability (Alvesson & Billing, 2009). In other cases, the nature of an eating meeting can influence the kind of food to be eaten. For example, a business dinner can call for a different type of food compared to informal dinners.

In conclusion, Food choices linked to a particular society expose the background, passions, beliefs, personality, assumption, and knowledge of those people. That is why more should be done to enrich the field of food studies which is among the emerging field of inquiry designed to understand people heritage.


Alvesson, M., & Billing, Y. D. (2009). Understanding Gender and Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Hauck-Lawson, A. (2004). Introduction to the special issue on the food voice. Food, Culture, and Society, 7 (1), 24-25

Kittler, P.G., Sucher, K.P., & Nelms, M.N. (2012). Food and culture (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Larson, N., & Story, M. (2009). A Review of Environmental Influences on Food Choices. Annual Behavioral Medicine; 38 Supplement 1; s56-73.

Sadella, E. & Burroughs, J. (1981). Profiles in Eating: Sexy Vegetarians and Other Diet-based Stereotypes. Psychology Today (October), 51-57

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