What’s In The Box? Meal Delivery Kits and the Modern Food Landscape

Authors: Jennifer Bernstein*,
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Women, Political Geography
Keywords: food geography; agricultural geography; feminist geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Meal delivery kits are a ubiquitous part of the contemporary food landscape. Their rise is understandable- the home cook is increasingly responsible for facilitating family connections, fighting obesity, strengthening community ties, supporting local agriculture, and highlighting food outside the cultural canon (Johnston & Baumann, 2004), all while being increasingly pressed for time. Meal delivery kits are marketed using green iconography, and yet are reliant on modern, highly technologized global commodity chains. Problematically, while some farmers benefit from a relationship with a meal delivery kit service, others find that the nationwide reach of these services places high demands (and associated risks) on small farmers. While today’s food writers urge citizens to connect with farmers and food, meal delivery kits enable performativity (see Butler, 1990). Consumers are supplied with the props needed to perform the act of cooking, adding just enough stirring to make the performance authentic. Further, meal delivery kits have a gender dynamic. While men tend to find them an accessible foray into cooking with pleasing results, women—absolved of shopping and meal planning—find them an opportunity to cook without cooking. Ultimately, meal delivery kits exemplify “inverted quarantine”- instead of engaging in collective social change, they isolate those who can afford them (Szatz, 2007). The most important fixes to our food system—taxing greenhouse gasses, treating agricultural workers justly, making healthy food a basic human right (Johnson, 2014) —are not in the box.

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