Paoyi Huang – work-in-progress

I’m still in the early phase of developing the poverty-humanities component I wish to add to my Intro to Sociology for Spring 2022, so this is a very rough draft.

I’m interested in the topic of food insecurity, and for this institute’s requirement, I would like to combine two in-class exercise and homework assignments I assigned before and expand them to a full project.

In the unit of “stratification” in my Intro class, I asked students to keep a food journal. Students were required to record everything they eat for one to two days (a low-stakes, no-grade, informal assignment), and preferably, they should pick the day when they had classes at BMCC. Many of them were intrigued and asked if they needed to provide any other information. They were encouraged, but not required, to record where they bought the food, the price they paid, and the rationale of their food choices. I assigned the article “What Food Says About Class In America,” and students were required to bring their food journal to participate in a small-group to discuss the reading and reflect on their own experiences. Many students have never heard of terms such as “food snob,” “health nut,” “locavore,” etc. that were in the news article, but through my guidance and peer discussions, most of them were able to make the connection between their own food experiences and structural inequality.

I stopped this assignment when we transitioned to remote teaching, partly because it’s difficult to run a small-group discussion online, but mostly because I was really concerned such an assignment would add too much pressure on some students’ already traumatic experiences during the pandemic.

For the project I’m thinking to develop, I would like to include both a quantitative and a qualitative component.

For the quantitative part, students will be using New York City government’s open data portal to retrieve demographic, social, and economic data in two neighborhoods: Tribeca where the college is and the neighborhood they live in.

I’m not sure what would be more suitable for the qualitative component yet, perhaps a more developed food journal/essay, or maybe even a photo essay.

The article I assigned before is too outdated, so I want to find better readings to assign. I’ve assigned segments (race/ethnicity and food, gender and food, etc.) from the book “Pressure Cooker” (a collective ethnographic work by Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, and Sinikka Elliott), but I’m not too happy about the result.    


  • Adele Kudish

    Hi Paoyi,
    I think the idea of a food journal, whether written or photo (instagram perhaps?) is a great idea, and could be something students do already or might have wanted to do. I’m not sure if it would be useful to you, but I love this personal essay by Melissa Chadburn about the foods she ate as a child growing up in poverty:


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