SEAHO Report - Winter 2023 - 34

Food Culture as an Identity
By Aaliyah J. Deggs, University of South Florida - Tampa
INTRODUCTION
Food Culture is defined as " the practices, attitudes,
and beliefs as well as the networks and institutions
surrounding the production, distribution, and
consumption of food " (Lucy Long, 2015).
Food is a critical part of culture. It is a form of
identity and cultural expression. Food can bring
people together. Also, food can other and exclude,
which can cause feelings of isolation and invisibility.
This article aims to highlight and bring awareness
to a social identity many overlook and expand our
language around consumption needs. Additionally,
this article provides practical tips to ensure your
events, meetings, and other engagements are food
inclusive.
POSITIONALITY
Before moving forward, I want to take this time to
state my positionality. Food has always played an
essential role in how I navigate the world. Although I
have many other minoritized identities, how I engage
with food is my most salient identity. Since birth, my
parents taught me that all food isn't created equal
and some foods are more nutritious than others. As
a result, I did not consume pork, pork byproducts,
and beef. As a Midwesterner (Kansas City, Missouri
native), not eating barbeque like my friends made me
realize that I had a different relationship with food.
From an early age, I learned to read and research
ingredients. Furthermore, this upbringing led me to
explore other food lifestyles such as vegetarianism
and veganism. While an undergrad, I learned more
about food culture, food science, and familial and
social structures through my anthropology and
sociology electives. In the present day, I have specific
and individualized food practices that help me
prioritize my health needs.
34
FOOD CULTURE AS AN IDENTITY
My experiences help me advocate and educate
others on the importance of recognizing that
everyone has a different relationship with food.
As humans, we are not a monolith. Everyone has
different needs, wants, values, and approaches
and thus we navigate the world differently. As we
aim to create more inclusive and understanding
environments for our students, we have to be mindful
of the decisions we make regarding food choices and
options.
When discussing any social identity, we must
acknowledge the elephant in the room: privilege!
There is a privilege in being able to consume
anything you want. One can enter any restaurant and
store and know they have numerous food options.
This perspective is considered " standard, " while
other foodways are considered " alternative. " Those
with different food needs learn to navigate physical
and social spaces that were not created with them in
mind. Below is a brief list of some daily experiences
that a person with different dietary needs may
encounter:
* Must review a restaurant menu or call in
advance to explore food options
* May ask preparation and/or facility questions
due to worries about cross-contamination
* Must read food labels such as ingredient
and allergen statements
* May decline invitations because of limited or
no food options
* May encounter others who ask intrusive
questions and/or have negative perceptions
LANGUAGE
Language is always important and can influence
your decision-making. Regarding food culture as an
identity, language is essential for creating inclusive
environments. For instance, dietary restrictions,

SEAHO Report - Winter 2023

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Contents
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