In his comprehensive critique of the global food system, Patel takes his time winding his way through every stage of the food production process, through the experiences and perspectives of all involved--lay and professional--from around the world. Patel ultimately blames both corporations and governments for their complicity in undermining local, cultural, and sustainable foodways and thereby causing the major food-related problems of today, from obesity to starvation. Drenched in details and indictments, Patel's Stuffed and Starved is a broad but accessible analysis of global food struggles that aims to inform and incite the general Western public.
Despite his heady academic and professional background, Patel keeps the technical and academic jargon to a minimum, using basic reportage and narrative description to convey his ideas, analyses, and anecdotes. As such, the book has the possibility of appealing to an audience beyond the academy. However, based on Patel's political bent, Stuffed and Starved is still most likely to play better to a more leftward-leaning and politically-engaged audience.
The breadth of Stuffed and Starved is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Patel does not shy away from his stated task of examining the global food system in all its overwhelming complexity. He does explain in the introduction that he tries to maintain organization by arranging the chapters according to what should chronologically be the beginning of the food cycle--farming--and then winding his way through each of the stages of food production and distribution until he ends up at consumption. However, the complexity of the system, the global scope of the project, and Patel's own intimate knowledge and passion for the subject work against any kind of neat-and-tidy organization or argument. Although such complexities speak volumes about the current state of the global food system and the major problems within it, they also can be confusing on a number of different levels.
Overall, Stuffed and Starved is an informative introduction for the lay reader interested in political issues related to food production, distribution, and consumption around the world, particularly those who appreciated Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and would like a look beyond the North American context. Academic audiences may also find Patel's text useful for the broad coverage that he gives to various food-related economic and political problems all over the world, as well as his extensive bibliography and research. The book can be used almost like a reference text in this way, indexing an expanse of contemporary food-related issues.