Feed, Need, Greed: The Politics of Food in Bite-Size Morsels

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Feed, Need, Greed: The Politics of Food in Bite-Size Morsels

by the Boston SftP Food and Nutrition Group

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 11, No. 6, November/December 1979, p. 32–33

The Food and Nutrition Group of the Boston chapter of Science for the People has revised our alternative curriculum for high school students entitled Feed. Need. Greed (first written in 1974). Our goal is to raise the awareness of students and teachers to the “why’s” of food production, to the effects of diet on health, and, in general, to deal with issues of nutrition and hunger in a political context. We feel it’s necessary to counter the majority of nutrition texts published by the food industry, which advocate incomplete nutritional practices and then blame the consumer for poor eating habits and health problems. The common myths on nutrition, for example that we make free choices about what we eat, that overpopulation and hunger result from ignorance, and that multinational corporations such as Nestle truly serve the nutritional needs of developing countries, must be examined. To dispel these myths, a political analysis of food and population issues is mandatory. 

Following is an activity we encourage teachers to use. 

Junk Food Derby 

Below are listed twelve foods. Rank the foods from the one you think is most advertised at the top, to the one you think is least advertised at the bottom. Discuss your guesses and how they compare with the actual answers. 

  1. carbonated soft drinks 
  2. desserts 
  3. citrus fruits 
  4. candy and gum 
  5. macaroni and spaghetti 
  6. cookies and crackers 
  7. vegetables 
  8. non-carbonated soft drinks 
  9. cheese 
  10. meats and poultry 
  11. shortening and oils 
  12. cereals 

Is the order of foods advertised from most to least often similar to your own food preferences (yes/no)? 

Today, the average diet contains an excess of both sugar and fat, two nutrients in the greatest quantity of those foods most often advertised. Sugar and fat also contribute to modern health problems such as dental caries (cavities), obesity and heart disease. If your food preferences are similar to the majority of American adolescents, you eat over 100 pounds of sugar a year and 30% more fat than a teenager ate in 1910.1 Both these nutrients are important parts of a healthy diet but in much less quantity. What else besides advertising do you think influences people’s preferences for less than healthy diets? 

Below, list four other influences that affect your food choices besides TV advertising: 

Rank them in the order that they influence your food choices. Discuss your order with the group and together decide on the most influential forces on your diet. 

Going Further Activities 

Some or all of the following can be done: 

  1. Decide on the order of the foods advertised in the activity in terms of the most to least healthy. 
  2. Write alternative ads. Decide what appeals to the consumer and what qualities of the food product you want to sell. Try them out on the group. 
  3. Write ads that really reflect what’s being sold. Sugary cereals do not make you stronger or better liked by your friends; tell it like it is. 


Most advertised

  1. cereals 
  2. candy and gum 
  3. shortening &. oils 
  4. cookies and crackers 
  5. desserts  
  6. non-carbonated soft drinks 
  7. carbonated soft drinks 
  8. meats and poultry 
  9. macaroni and spaghetti 
  10. vegetables 
  11. citrus fruits 
  12. cheese 

Least advertised 

(Taken from Edible TV, Your Child and Food Commercials, Sept. 1977, Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, p.63.)

Table of Contents for Feed, Need, Greed 

Unit I Population and Resources
Section 1: Exploding the population myth — Malthus
Section 2: Why do people have children?
Section 3: Resource limitations 

Unit II The Lean and the Lumpy
Section 1: Physical dimensions of hunger
Section 2: Changing eating patterns
Section 3: Health risks of the American diet — salt, sugar, and fat
Section 4: Politics of food processing and chemical additives 

Unit III Nutritional-Industrial Complex
Section 1: Tastes like love 
Section 2: Survival of the fattest
Section 3: Exploited labor and our food
Section 4: Bottle or breast? 

Unit IV What Do We Do With What We Know?
Section 1: Introduction to change
Section 2: Personal changes
Section 3: Local and community actions
Section 4: National change
Section 5: Global visions

>> Back to Vol. 11, No. 6<<


  1. The Changing American Diet, L. Brewster and M. Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest (1775 S Street, NW; Washington, DC 20009), 1978.