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Published: Tuesday, 2/14/2006

What's on tables around the world?

Think about everything your family eats and drinks in a week - breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, school lunch, fast food, restaurant meals, potlucks, food eaten in the car.

If you gathered all of those meals and placed all the food on your kitchen table, what would it look like?

How much of what's on the table would be beverages - pop, milk, juice, beer, wine, bottled water, sports drinks, meal replacement beverages? How many of your food dollars go for vitamins and food supplements?

Calculate how much your family spends on foods eaten away from home - school and work lunches, fast-food dinners, home-delivered pizza, that coffee and doughnut or sausage biscuit eaten on the way to work, or the candy bar grabbed as a snack from a vending machine.

Next, think about the snacks and desserts, commercially prepared or homemade. This includes munchies, chewing gum, chips, and popcorn.

Finally gather the dairy foods, the fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry, fish, eggs, grains, and starchy foods. Then think about the canned foods, frozen foods, and prepared items such as pasta sauce, soups, and tacos. Include spices, condiments, baking ingredients, and assorted sauces (salsa, dipping sauce, etc.). The list seems to go on and on.

And don't forget baby formula and baby foods and juices. And yes, some foods, such as sushi, fall into two categories: You can count these as prepared foods or foods eaten away from home; or popcorn eaten at the movies versus popcorn made at home.

The result reveals not only what your family is buying and consuming and what it costs, but also how nutritious your food is. It's a mirror of your lifestyle.

A new book, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio (Ten Speed Press, $40) presents a photographic study of families from around the world. It reveals what people eat during the course of one week by featuring 30 families in 24 countries from Bhutan and Bosnia to Mexico and Mongolia.

The authors say that for the first time in the history of the planet, there are more people overfed than underfed. Yet you can't escape the difference in food from the limited diet of the Aboubaker family of Sudan to the extensive foods of the Al Haggan family of Kuwait City. A Polish family included food for the family pet. There are the bounteous breads from an Italian family, the extensive seafood from a Japanese family, and the multiple bottles of Coca-Cola from a family in Mexico.

In the United States, the Revis family of four from North Carolina spends $341.98 per week on food: Fast food is $71.61, beverages are $77.75, and restaurants are $6.15 (a meal from a Chinese restaurant). By comparison, the Fernandez family of five from Texas spends $242.48 per week on food: Fast food is $11.81, beverages are $18.87, and restaurants are $42.11. The Craven family of four from California spends $159.18 per week on food: Fast food is $7.50, beverages are $22.89, and restaurants are $4.50. (The Cravens eat out once a month using a coupon to defray the cost. The price shown reflects one-fourth of the cost of one visit per month.)

Photojournalist Mr. Menzel and writer Ms. D'Aluisio have created an awesome picture book that shows the multitude of food choices around the world.



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