I marched into the Gastronomy program with my eyes on the Food Policy concentration, so I was eager to begin the Food Policy and Food Systems class my very first semester (Fall 2012). Being an avid reader of Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and even Barbara Kingsolver, I am very interested in how basic principles of human nutrition can be applied when addressing the current challenges of the food industry.
The class was intimidating at first. Ellen Messer is a quirky and cheerful anthropologist with a wealth of knowledge on international food policy and human rights. She speaks quickly in a matter-of-fact manner, and sometimes passed out class outlines which were several pages long, single spaced, and in size 10 font. But that’s just the world of policy. Several pages long, single spaced, and size 10 font.
The topics covered in our course included the pro’s and con’s of biotechnology, the issue of world hunger, the external costs of meat consumption, monoculture vs. biodiversity, organics and integrated pest management, the role of NGO’s, eating patterns from around the world, obesity and nutrition, and the role of biofuels. Forget what you think you may know about GMO’s, world hunger, or organics. Our class looked at each issue from every angle imaginable. While I may not have a solution for world hunger, I am definitely a more educated consumer.
The focus was much more international than I had originally expected, and that was one of the main challenges. However, because globalization binds us so closely with other nations, it was interesting to see the consequences of our consumption patterns. The main project for this class was to research food policy issues of a foreign nation, including a staple crop and an export crop, as well as research how these factors influence the food security of the nation. We then presented our findings to our classmates in a panel.
Ultimately, I want to help make nutritious foods more accessible, and I believe that learning to navigate the agricultural and industrial concerns of the food industry is a great place to start. There are many complex issues regarding American agriculture and the subsidization of various foods, and it is my goal to further study these relationships (such as in Ellen Messer’s US Food Policy class, next semester) in order to brainstorm ways to help make food systems more conducive to healthy eating.
If you are at all interested in these issues, I highly recommend reading The End of Food, by Paul Roberts.
Image via Tufts