Food and gentrification | The Economist

How is the food supply of an urban place related to gentrification processes? In recent weeks, a controversy arose on Twitter in which a US citizen pointed out that she liked living in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City while she could work remotely. A simple declaration of love to a place abroad became controversial, as many users pointed out that this type of behavior is what contributes to the gentrification of a place.

The gentrification process is not new, and has occurred as a constant phenomenon in urban concentrations. It refers to the process by which a certain area of ​​the city changes its character due to the fact that people with greater purchasing power move there, which triggers the prices not only of rents, but also of services and products, including food. In fact, studies on gentrification and food suggest that by analyzing not only what is eaten, but how it is eaten and even how it is marketed in these places, it is what reveals the gentrification of a place in a city. . This is a phenomenon that is observed in many large cities around the world.

An example of gentrification reflected in food is how small businesses that previously supplied “homemade” meals at a good price to a group of settlers, suddenly increase their prices due to the high influx of tourists or foreigners. This even modifies the presentation of the dishes, to make them seem “more traditional”, “more Mexican” or “more haute cuisine” as the case may be. In general, this type of presentation is more of a “performance” than something genuine, as it is intended to satisfy those demands of what is supposedly authentic in culinary terms.

Another example of gentrification in food lies in the way in which certain food supply places change the prices of the same product simply based on the neighborhood where they are located. For other people, gentrification is also related to the variety of cuisines from many places on the planet in a relatively small territory, although this example causes debate, since this may not necessarily respond to gentrification, but to other phenomena such as globalization. The great cities of the world concentrate in their streets gastronomic samples from many countries of the world, some of them more similar to the kitchens of origin than others.

Contrary to what many people think, he does not necessarily find the culprits in outsiders who move into a place. This process is the result of high social inequalities around income and the purchasing power that income gives in different contexts. It also responds to high inequalities in labor terms, and to the cost of living in certain places, also a product of inequality. Neither do we have to fall into xenophobia to point out the guilty. As long as social and economic policies do not target these sectors, gentrification will continue to be a phenomenon observed in many parts of the world, supported by a system that increasingly excludes those who can afford housing in the main areas of a city, whose The model is aimed more at the lower classes occupying the periphery while big capital concentrates in the geographic center.

Food and society columnist


Food and society columnist. Gastronaut, observer and foodie. She is a researcher in sociology of food, nutritionist. She is president and founder of Funalid: Foundation for Food and Development.