Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

pp 1-12

Date: Latest Version

Eating, Feeding, and Disability

  • Elaine GerberAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Montclair State University Email author 


Functional limitation; Handicap; Impairment; Medical model; Social model


This entry addresses “disability,” both as a medical condition and as a social construction. In addressing disability as a medical phenomenon, the following topics are covered: malnutrition; obesity; GMOs, environmental toxins, and impairment; disability as an input; and food security and an underreporting of disability. The second section focuses on disability as a social construction and addresses the following topics: food choice, independence, and autonomy (including feeding tubes, assisted eating, and food choice); power and abuse; and food acquisition and access (including mobility impairment, identity, and inclusion). As the topic of disability is relatively understudied within food scholarship, the summary emphasizes directions for future research.


Traditional notions of disability frame it as a medical phenomenon located in an individual’s body, and measures often define it by ...

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