Caribeños at the Table

How Migration, Health, and Race Intersect in New York City

By Melissa Fuster

196 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 fig., 1 table

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6457-6
    Published: October 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6456-9
    Published: October 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6458-3
    Published: September 2021

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Melissa Fuster thinks expansively about the multiple meanings of comida, food, from something as simple as a meal to something as complex as one’s identity. She listens intently to the voices of New York City residents with Cuban, Dominican, or Puerto Rican backgrounds, as well as to those of the nutritionists and health professionals who serve them. She argues with sensitivity that the migrants’ health depends not only on food culture but also on important structural factors that underlie their access to food, employment, and high-quality healthcare.

People in Hispanic Caribbean communities in the United States present high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases, conditions painfully highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both eaters and dietitians may blame these diseases on the shedding of traditional diets in favor of highly processed foods. Or, conversely, they may blame these on the traditional diets of fatty meat, starchy root vegetables, and rice. Applying a much needed intersectional approach, Fuster shows that nutritionists and eaters often misrepresent, and even racialize or pathologize, a cuisine’s healthfulness or unhealthfulness if they overlook the kinds of economic and racial inequities that exist within the global migration experience.

About the Author

Melissa Fuster is associate professor of public health nutrition at Tulane University.

For more information about Melissa Fuster, visit the Author Page.


"Fuster has interesting things to say about how dietitians view the traditional diets of the Caribbean—as unhealthy and unsophisticated. . . . And she urges us to think about migrant eating patterns in the broader context of everyone’s eating patterns."—Marion Nestle, Food Politics

"Expands the field of food studies by bringing forward an interdisciplinary approach that combines public health, food policy, anthropology, and sociology focused on the understudied communities of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans in NYC."—Intervenxions

“In this rich and engaging book, Melissa Fuster draws on nutrition science, social science, and food studies to make a significant intervention into the racialization and pathologization of Caribbean–New York foodways, showing how rich and complex they are, as well as how maligned. I am excited to teach Caribeños at the Table, which will appeal to a broad readership in Latinx studies, food studies, nutrition, public health, Caribbean studies, and the social sciences.”—Alyshia Galvez, Lehman College, City University of New York

“To date, few studies exist at the intersection of food, nutrition, health, and culture. By giving equal and thorough consideration to all these important factors in focusing on New Yorkers of Caribbean descent, Melissa Fuster has accomplished a difficult feat. Will be useful to practicing dietitians and community organizers and enlightening for academics at all levels. In fact, it should be part of every nutrition and food studies college curriculum.”—Amy Bentley, New York University