Quick Takes – “Soylent” Food Substitute

Recent college grad Rob Rhinehart’s new invention “soylent” is a cheap, convenient food substitute that claims to have “all the necessary nutrients” in a flavorless powder.

Soylent Should Be Utilized as an Efficient Aid for Hunger Relief

Although the original purpose of nutritional drink Soylent as a product is quick appetite satiation, its true value lies in its applications for the needy — as a tool to provide an emergency food source. While the product is not designed to be a full-time substitute to meals, it could serve as a viable option for times when there is no other choice.

Soylent’s nature as a cheaper, supposedly balanced food substitute could help bring food security and crucial nutrition to struggling individuals and families. In 2011, one in six Americans faced hunger, and 17.9 million households faced food insecurity, which means that they lived in hunger or had the fear of starvation. In a wealthy country of approximately 300 million people, these numbers are far too high.

Additionally, Soylent can be relied upon as a tool for emergency relief. In developing nations that lack the social or physical infrastructure to handle large natural disasters or famine, this product could prove incredibly valuable. Unlike other emergency rations that are meant to provide only basic sustenance, Soylent would also maintain proper levels of nutrition in those using it. Because it doesn’t spoil like regular food, it could be stored for long periods of time. The money saved by using Soylent instead of traditional relief food could be put towards addressing other consequences of a disaster.

In short, Soylent’s founders have a real gem on their hands. But instead of trying to radically change the way well-to-do people perceive food and nutrition, their main focus should be geared towards people in poverty or governments seeking alternative solutions in emergency relief.

— Charu Mehra

Contributing Writer

Emphasis on Convenience Marks a Shift in Food’s Former Role in Society

As college students, thrift and convenience often guide our eating habits. Founder Rob Rhinehart experienced this type of diet in college and invented Soylent for our busy demographic. With over 10,000 backers contributing $1 million to the start-up company, Soylent’s emphasis on convenience over taste illustrates food’s shifting role in our lives.

Rather than the time-consuming process of preparing and savoring meals, consumers now seek low-effort, low-cost food that refuels their bodies with utmost efficiency. Journalist Eric Schlosser notes in his book “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” that the fast food industry grew 1000-fold in less than three decades for exactly this reason; people value their time and money more than eating 21 quality meals per week.

Soylent and fast food both capitalize on this shift toward convenience over culinary artistry, but Soylent takes this idea to its logical extreme. In a society where the International Food Information Council has to report 56 percent of Americans skipping breakfast, even fast food isn’t fast enough. Soylent seeks to fill these gaps, occupying a new niche even fast food cannot satisfy. Unlike fast food manufacturers, Rhinehart tailored Soylent to contain a balance of all human caloric and nutritional needs in a day, making it more appealing than fast food on the health front as well.

Foods of the future, like Soylent, will reflect the public’s demand for even more efficient ways to refuel without personal investment in each meal. This is a grand departure from traditional dining, which emphasized putting time and energy into each meal for a quality gustatory experience.

—  Thomas Finn

Contributing Writer

Bland Substance Can’t Replace the Cultural Value Behind Real Food

The creators of Soylent have labeled their new experimental form of sustenance — better described as questionably nutritious goo — as a sort of miracle food. The only thing miraculous about it, however, is that it has somehow managed to acquire over $1 million of investment funds from online enthusiasts.

Asking college students, Soylent’s target consumers, to surrender the savory taste of their Chipotle burritos and In-N-Out burgers for a tasteless, gloppy substance seems to be a stretch. In a first-impression article, Lee Hutchinson of Ars Technica describes his first taste of Soylent as “chalky,” and like “leftover sediment.” Furthermore, in an online poll asking which of their senses users would rather forfeit, less than 30 percent of users chose taste. This is because taste is not so much a biological necessity as it is a biological gift.

In an online article regarding cravings, University of Leeds’ Dr. Andrew Hill explains that tastier foods release chemicals such as dopamine into the bloodstream, which triggers pleasurable feelings. So while this wonder food-wannabe boasts an ostensibly outstanding variety of nutrients, the paucity of pleasure to the palate renders it as unrealistic as any other “wholesome” meal. There are other healthy foods already available, and those are inevitably trumped by less nutritious options primarily due to taste.

Although Soylent possesses nourishment necessary for survival, it neglects food’s role in culture. Flavors bring more meaning to food than a mere caloric value. Eliminating this avenue of enjoyment would be a very tasteless decision indeed.

— Brittany Christian

Contributing Writer

Leave a Comment
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The UCSD Guardian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *