Maslow’s Hierarchy and Food Complacency

by David Schlachter

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs helps us to understand the needs that we have as humans. According to Maslow, we spend most of our thought on our higher needs, such as self-actualization. However, we don’t think about our basic needs until we are deprived. We take breathing for granted, until we are deprived of oxygen. We don’t usually think about sleep until we are tired. We don’t think about food until we are hungry.

And then we eat. But do we think about what we are eating? Today food is readily accessible to us. We trade money for food, but don’t work for food directly. Complacency accounts for a lack of food planning. Because we are not working directly for this basic need, we undervalue it.

Generally, we are not farmers anymore. We do not grow our own food, for we are powerful consumers, not producers. Corporations and industry supply the food that our families eat. But can we trust corporations with our sustenance? Corporations have no family and no conscience, but they do have a profit, and shareholders to care for. The more we trust our food to money the less involved we are.

And the less we think as we grab a bag of so-called “potato chips” to satisfy a craving. It’s hard for us to imagine anything else. In times past, finding food was our main activity, and even recently families would have to plan months, even years in advance, to ensure they would be fed. Today, people plan for money, not food. People don’t know what they eat anymore, and they are disgusted to find out. Our food is vastly processed, and would often bear no resemblance to food in its original form. One cannot fake a basic need like sleep, but food can be faked—we eat trash in fancy packages! It is easy to satisfy hunger, so it is easy to disregard food.

And while the way we undervalue food affects our personal health, there are other repercussions. Most food purchases are imported from locations far from our communities; local food is hard to come by. Not only does this support the heavy industrial production of food for profit, but there is an environmental cost as well. Transportation over such distances has a real effect. Damaging emissions not only produce smog, they lead to global warming. Also, crops are typically doused in mysterious chemicals, which damage communities, and individual consumers.

By taking food money away from our community, we discourage local farming and become dependent on just a few businesses for food. Clearly, there are significant benefits to buying local food, but when we don’t care about nutrition we can hardly be expected to care about our food’s origin.

Our complacency with food is a problem in society. Doubtless, our reckless consumption is a threat to lives. Because food is not valued significantly, our nutrition and environment are neglected. And while we eat with surplus and impunity, children die each day of starvation.

Food is essential to the proper function of our bodies. Without food, we cannot live, and without proper food we cannot be healthy. Even though we probably can’t all become farmers, we can pay more attention to the food we eat. If we eat with prudence, and shop with discretion and judgement, we can benefit our own lives and make an impact in the world around us.