Koch Uncovers the Inequalities of Food

by Billy Chandler

Dr. Shelley Koch has released her third book, Gender and Food: A Critical Look at the Food System. The book looks at different aspects of food and how it is affected by gender inequalities.

Dr. Shelley Koch, now in her ninth year of teaching sociology, has released her third book,Gender and Food: A Critical Look at the Food System. The book looks at different aspects of the food system, from growing it in the fields all the way to cooking at home and eating it, and how gender inequality creates disparities between men and women in the food system. “In class, we usually define gender as the expected behaviors and norms for men and women in a particular society,” Dr. Koch said of her classwork, “Many societal structures are organized in a hierarchy of gender, with masculinity being privileged over women’s roles and the food system is no different.”

With her book going over how roles in food are structured off gender, Dr.Koch found that gender as a system of inequality shaped all aspects of the food system. For example, women are disadvantaged in many occupations dealing with food. “Even though women across the world are responsible for at least half of the food being grown, people tend to believe that men are doing most of the work, which leads to men getting more resources for farming. Women’s farms are often smaller, more labor-intensive, and less profitable. Women are paid less in all areas of food service and they are also responsible for feeding others, work that is invisible and unpaid.In addition, sexual harassment and abuse are prevalent throughout the food system, and often women have little to no support to prevent this violence.” To aid in fixing this, Shelley believes that more women need to be in positions of power and hopes to see more women get involved in politics at all levels.

The research involved for this book had Dr. Koch working through summer breaks and it took four years of pouring over data that has only been available for a few decades. “It was a really intensive process, I rewrote the book at least three times and it led me to be thinking about the book all the time. That being said, I’m proud of my work.”

In her nine years of teaching, Dr. Shelley Koch has enjoyed the teaching of sociology, specifically Social Theory, Environmental Sociology, and Women and Gender Studies. “I was drawn to Emory & Henry for the engaged learning and the service-based projects that occur here.”  

Even though women across the world are responsible for at least half of the food being grown, people tend to believe that men are doing most of the work.
-Shelley Koch

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