Stamped Out: How income inequality affects food choices

Title: Stamped Out: How income inequality affects food choices

Team Members: Rubez Chong, Berlynn Bai, Philip Zhu, Nora Wu

Context: It’s Food Security Awareness Week at MIT. We’re students on campus who are trying to raise awareness on the impacts and consequences of food insecurity and inequity. We decided to put together an interactive data sculpture to get people to start thinking with their hands.

Audience: Our audience is MIT students

Summary: The data say that income inequality affects food choices in interesting and surprising ways. For example, “soft drinks” rank no. 1 for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households and no. 2 for non-SNAP households i.e. not much of a difference at all despite the differences in income. We wanted to tell this story because we want the MIT public to breakdown and question the stereotypes about food choices by bringing to light the surprising similarities/differences in food rankings.

Our data sources come from the United States Department of Agriculture under the Nutrition Assistance Program Report in 2016. We use the data of the“Top Purchases by Expenditure for SNAP and Non‐SNAP Households” for this activity.

Why it’s appropriate: We wanted to visualize the diets of a SNAP vs. NON-SNAP and thought it would be compelling to do so with the use of a stomach sculpture. The styrofoam twirls are meant to represent different food items households purchase. It is effective in storytelling as the image of food items are vivid and the two identical stomachs help the audience empathize with the visceral impacts that income inequality has on our diet choices. The interactive “guess the rank” game highlights our perceived bias about these impacts.