Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Gray, Jonathan


The interrelated topics of food, eating, nutrition, and diet continue to represent growing areas of interest in communication studies and related disciplines. Food is essential to our existence, and the images we use to communicate about food are important to public culture. In this project, I conduct a visual rhetorical analysis of the food pyramids created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid and the 2005 MyPyramid, to explore how these iconic images negotiate the competing interests of the food industry, nutritionists, and the general public. As icons circulate, they become subjected to various forms of appropriation which includes copying, imitating, and satirizing the original image. Therefore, I study a collection of appropriated food pyramids created by different groups and individuals to identify the salient features of the food pyramid icon. As a group these images encourage viewers to believe that an abundance of food always exists by highlighting products over processes. Viewing the earth as endlessly abundant aligns with a cornucopian perspective on the environment which implicitly supports the status quo in the U.S. industrial food system. I conclude by offering ideas of appropriated food pyramids that visually challenge this problematic ideology. The USDA food pyramids and their visual appropriations provide an important space for us to interrogate the rhetorical messages we consume in public culture.




This dissertation is only available for download to the SIUC community. Current SIUC affiliates may also access this paper off campus by searching Dissertations & Theses @ Southern Illinois University Carbondale from ProQuest. Others should contact the interlibrary loan department of your local library or contact ProQuest's Dissertation Express service.