Artists from Somerville, Massachusetts took the definition of “setting” the table to the next level. They turned the data on food insecurity into art. Emily and Rahul Bhargava materialized the figures received from the Somerville Food Security Coalition in order to raise awareness on the food crisis. The final result was a full-size, one of a kind table made from 1,659 stainless steel utensils. “This data sculpture was inspired by that number.  Each of the 1,659 households is represented by one knife, spoon, or fork,” says Emily Bhargava.

Emily Bhargava (right), director of Connection Lab LLC and community art director for the Beautiful Stuff Project and Rahul Bhargava (left), professor of journalism and art and design at Northeastern University in Boston. Image courtesy of Emily Bhargava.

Global food crisis is not a new phenomenon. However, the situation only deteriorated with the ongoing pandemic, wars and climate change. Food insecurity can negatively impact people’s lives. Households with low income are more likely to face these challenges in uncertain times.  “For far too many households simply having access to enough food to eat is a daily challenge. During the early months of the COVID pandemic, an average of 1,659 new households applied for SNAP benefits every day in Massachusetts,” says Emily.

Food justice activists believe that the solution to this problem is not  simply “giving people more food”, but rather promoting food sovereignty.

Data Sculpture 1659 by Emily and Rahul Bhargava. Image courtesy by Emily Bhargava.‌ ‌

Working together, the couple spent several months putting the sculpture together. They started by reviewing the data from the SFSC. Later, they sent out requests for cutlery contributions. “We welded a frame for the table out of steel stock,” adds Emily. “Then we sorted and counted all of the cutlery and welded it to the table base so that it would all be visible.”

Emily Bhargava in the process of creating the sculpture. Picture courtesy by Emily Bhargava. ‌ ‌

Rahul and Emily Bhargava are actively involved in the community, and use the art as a tool to connect and empower community members. They advocate for food security on the local scale and encourage people to do so everywhere. Their contribution is important and touches upon the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Zero Hunger and Good Health and Well-Being.

“We continue to be involved in our local food security coalition, and will turn to arts interventions whenever possible to instigate conversations and action related to food,” concludes Emily.
1,659 pieces of cutlery combined by Emily and Rahul Bhargava to create a sculpture on food insecurity. Photos by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University. Image courtesy of Northeastern University.

Currently their work is on display till Apr. 23, 2023 as part of the traveling Food Justice Exhibition in the Fuller Craft Museum. To learn more about the sculpture,  artists and the food crisis visit their dedicated webpage by following this link.

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