Because food is essential to human life, food and nutrition-related issues are often controversial. In undeveloped societies, the major public concern is whether enough food is available.  In more developed societies, people are concerned about how to ensure the best possible food supply for health.  When people have more food choices and increasing opportunities to make their grievances known, they are also more likely to view the quality of their food as problematic.
Vegetarianism:  Movement or Moment?
Donna Maurer
Temple University Press, April 2002
Eating Agendas:  Food and Nutrition as Social Problems
Donna Maurer and Jeffery Sobal, eds.
Aldine de Gruyter, 1995
Given the central importance of food to human life, it is surprising that sociologists have paid so little attention to it in their research.  Eating Agendas fills this gap with papers on contemporary issues such as food safety, biotechnology, the food stamp program, obesity, anorexia nervosa, and vegetarianism, among others. Contributors include both sociologists and nutritional scientists, and their chapters represent research conducted in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Norway.
Interpreting Weight:  The Social Management of Fatness and Thinness
Jeffery Sobal and Donna Maurer, eds.
Aldine de Gruyter, 1999
What is "too fat"?  What is "too thin"?  Interpretations of body weight vary widely across and within cultures.  Meeting weight expectations is a major concern for many people because failing to do so may incure dire social consequences, such as difficulty in finding a romantic partner or even in locating adequate employment.  Without these social and cultural pressures, body weight would only be a health issue.  While socially constructed standards of body weight may seem immutable, they are continuously re-created through social interactions that can perpetuate or transform expectations about fatness and thinness.
Weighty Issues:  Fatness and Thinness as Social Problems
Many people consider their weight to be a personal problem, but when does body weight become a social problem?  Until recently, the major public concern was whether enough food was consistently available.  As food systems began to provide ample and stable amounts of food, questions about food availability were replaced with "ideal" weights and appearance.
The chapters in Weighty Issues offer several perspectives that can be used to understand the ways society deals with fatness and thinness, considering historical foundations, medical models, gendered dimensions, institutional components, and collective perspectives.
Jeffery Sobal and Donna Maurer, eds.
Aldine de Gruyter, 1999
Written by sociologists, psychologists, and nutritionists, all of the chapters in Interpreting Weight focus on how people construct fatness and thinness, examining different strategies uesd to interpret body weight, such as negotiating weight identities, reinterpreting weight, and becoming involved in weight-related organizations.  Together these chapters emphasize the many ways that people actively define, construct, and enact their fatness and thinness in a variety of settings and situations.
Vegetarianism seems to be increasing in popularity and acceptance in the U.S. and Canada, yet, quite surprisingly, the percentage of the population practicing vegetarian diets has not changed dramatically over the past 30 years.  Vegetarianism:  Movement or Moment? is the first book to consider this movement on a broad scale from a social science perspective.
While this book takes into account the unique history of North American vegetarianism and the various reasons why people adopt vegetarian diets, it focuses on how movement leaders' beliefs regarding the dynamics of social change contribute to the selection of particular strategies for attracting people to vegetarianism.  In the context of this focus, Vegetarianism:  Movement or Moment? highlights several controversies that have emerged in nutrition and the popular media over the past 30 years.
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