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Spring 2012

Food & American Society: An Urban Perspective

Food & American Society: An Urban Perspective

What we eat, why, where it comes from, and how it all matters, everyday





Why Food? Why the Focus on the City?


Louisa Kasdon, Founder, Let’s Talk About Food

Ilene Bezahler, Publisher/Editor, Edible Boston


Where our Food Comes From

James E Tillotson, Professor of Food Policy and International Business, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Tufts University – The Food System

Rachel Greenberger, Director, Food Solutions Institute (Food Sol), Babson College


Local and Global

Timothy Griffin, Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Tufts University — “Regional Food Systems: A View from the Northeast US”

David Warner, Founder/Owner, City Feed & Supply

Jenn Abelson, Business Reporter, The Boston Globe





Feeding the City: Food as a Business


Adina Astor, Director of Strategy, Next Street Financial

Theresa Lynch, Sr VP and Director of Research, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City

Trish Karter, CEO, LightEffect Farms; Founder, Dancing Deer Bakery


Providing Access to Healthy Foods

Edith Murnane, Director of Food Initiatives, City of Boston

Danielle Andrews, Community Food Coordinator, The Food Project

Karen Spiller, Director, Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness

Glynn Lloyd, CEO of City Fresh Foods, Inc.


Food, Ecology, Democracy, Justice:
 What we Eat Matters

Frances Moore Lappé, The Small Planet Institute


What we Eat: the Role of Culture

Sarah Dwyer, Program Manager, Oldways – Culture and Food

Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor and Director of Jewish Studies, Northeastern University

Robert Hall, Associate Professor of African American Studies, Northeastern University


Feeding Boston: The view from the front lines

Maureen Timmons, Director of Dining Services, Northeastern University

Jose Duarte, Chef/Owner, Taranta

Alison Fong, Owner, Bon Me food truck

Phil Bannatyne, Owner, Cambridge Brewing Company





Spring Break – No Class


How food is produced: Agriculture in America and in Massachusetts

Jennifer Hashley, Director, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Tufts University

Ethan Grundberg, Farm Manager, Allandale Farm

Greg Watson, Comissioner, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources


Who Produces our Food: Farmers, Migrant Workers, and the Food Service Industry

Roger Berkowitz, CEO, Legal Seafoods

Phillip Granberry, Research Associate, Mauricio Gastón Institute, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Jennifer Fahy, Director of Communications, Farm Aid

Meghan Cohorst, Student/Farmworker Alliance


Challenges to our Food Safety

Susan Shaw, Founder and Director, Marine Environmental Research Institute

John Helferich, Food Safety Consultant and former Senior VP Research and Development, Mars, Inc





Food and Health: The Obesity Epidemic

 Katherine Tucker, Professor of Health Sciences and Director, Boston Puerto Rican Health Study

Richard Daynard, Professor of Law and Director, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University

Alan Meyers, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine


Food and Health: Solutions to the Obesity Crisis

Walter Willet, Professor of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

Susan Roberts, Professor of Nutrition, Tufts University

Sara Baer-Sinnott, President, Oldways

Mary Jo Meisner, Vice President, and Allison Bauer, Program Director, The Boston Foundation


Reconnecting Us to Our Food Sources

Ashley Howard, Co-owner, Heaven’s Harvest Farm

Tad Read, Senior Planner, Boston Redevelopment Authority

Joan Squeri, Program Manager, Cambridge Farmers Markets

Greg Watson, Comissioner, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources


Future of Food, Educating the Next Generation

Didi Emmons, Founding Chef, Haley House Bakery Café and Founder, Take Back the Kitchen

Russ Eckel, Chair, Green Peabody

Joan Squeri, Program Manager, Cambridge Farmers Markets

Kim Szeto, Farm to School Coordinator, Boston Public Schools

Instructor’s Note: We take as a given, perhaps without taking a moment to dwell on it, the abundance, variety, and low cost of food in America. The books below start with that recognition, and then ponder the costs of a food system that is both a marvel of efficiency and a generator of many unintended consequences.



Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet (1971)

From Wikipedia: “The first major book to critique grain-fed meat production as wasteful and a contributor to global food scarcity. Eating a planet-centered diet, she argued, means choosing what is best for the earth and our bodies—a daily action that reminds us of our power to create a saner world. The book has sold over three million copies and was groundbreaking for arguing that world hunger is not caused by a lack of food but by ineffective food policy. In addition to information on meat production and its impact on hunger, the book features simple rules for a healthy diet and hundreds of meat-free recipes.”

Marion Nestle, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health, 2nd ed. (2007)

Publisher’s summary: “We all witness, in advertising and on supermarket shelves, the fierce competition for our food dollars. In this engrossing exposé, Marion Nestle goes behind the scenes to reveal how the competition really works and how it affects our health. The abundance of food in the United States—enough calories to meet the needs of every man, woman, and child twice over—has a downside. Our over-efficient food industry must do everything possible to persuade people to eat more—more food, more often, and in larger portions—no matter what it does to waistlines or well-being.”

Michael Pollan, An Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2007)

Publisher’s summary: Asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us–whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed–he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound implications our food choices have for the health of our species and the future of our planet.

Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2002)

Amazon.com review: “On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving either its speed or its thriftiness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems as American, and harmless, as apple pie. But the industry’s drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed has radically transformed America’s diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways. Eric Schlosser, an award-winning journalist, opens his ambitious and ultimately devastating exposé with an introduction to the iconoclasts and high school dropouts, such as Harlan Sanders and the McDonald brothers, who first applied the principles of a factory assembly line to a commercial kitchen. Quickly, however, he moves behind the counter with the overworked and underpaid teenage workers, onto the factory farms where the potatoes and beef are grown, and into the slaughterhouses run by giant meatpacking corporations. Schlosser wants you to know why those French fries taste so good (with a visit to the world’s largest flavor company) and “what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns.”


Jeff Benedict, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat (2011)

Summary: “When six-year-old Lauren Rudolph was rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and fever, doctors were mystified as to the cause of her sudden and terrifying symptoms. Just five days later Lauren would become the first victim of a mysterious bacterial pathogen. Hundreds of sick children began to show up at hospitals across the Western states, three more children died. After frantic research, health officials managed to trace the deadly outbreak to a single source: undercooked hamburgers eaten at the popular fast-food chain Jack in the Box. Back in 1993, no one had ever heard of E. coli. Food poisoning might give you a stomach ache but it wasn’t regarded as life-threatening, and no one dreamed that giving a child a hamburger could have deadly consequences. The alarming E. coli outbreak that began with Lauren Rudolph opened America’s eyes to the dangers of undercooked meat, touching off a media and political frenzy that would revolutionize the way we eat.”

NOTE: Copies of Poisoned, donated by NU Alumnus Jeff Benedict, will be made available to all class participants.

Marion Nestle, Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety, 2nd ed. (2010)

Publisher’s summary: “Marion Nestle, author of the critically acclaimed Food Politics, argues that ensuring safe food involves more than washing hands or cooking food to higher temperatures. It involves politics. When it comes to food safety, billions of dollars are at stake, and industry, government, and consumers collide over issues of values, economics, and political power—and not always in the public interest. Although the debates may appear to be about science, Nestle maintains that they really are about control: Who decides when a food is safe? She demonstrates how powerful food industries oppose safety regulations, deny accountability, and blame consumers when something goes wrong, and how century-old laws for ensuring food safety no longer protect our food supply.”


Frances Moore Lappé, EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want (2011)

From the publisher: “Solutions to global crises are within reach,” says Frances Moore Lappé. “Our challenge is to free ourselves from self-defeating thought traps so we can bring these solutions to life.” In EcoMind, Lappé helps facilitate a much needed shift. She argues that much of what is wrong with the world, from our eroding soil to our eroding democracies, results from ways of thinking that are out of sync with human nature and nature’s rhythms. Humans are doers, she says. But our capacity for doing is undermined by seven “thought traps” that leave us mired in fear, guilt, and despair—none of which are motivators to action.”

Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2009)

Publisher’s summary: In this follow up to Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan shows us how to change the way we eat, one meal at a time. He proposes a new answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” First chapter available at: http://michaelpollan.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/omnivore_excerpt.

Walter Willett and P.J. Skerret, Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating (2001)

Amazon.com: Aimed at nothing less than totally restructuring the diets of Americans, Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy may well accomplish its goal. Dr. Walter C. Willett gets off to a roaring start by totally dismantling one of the largest icons in health today: the USDA Food Pyramid that we all learn in elementary school. He blames many of the pyramid’s recommendations–6 to 11 servings of carbohydrates, all fats used sparingly–for much of the current wave of obesity. At first this may read differently than any diet book, but Willett also makes a crucial, rarely mentioned point about this icon: “The thing to keep in mind about the USDA Pyramid is that it comes from the Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for promoting American agriculture, not from the agencies established to monitor and protect our health.” It’s no wonder that dairy products and American-grown grains such as wheat and corn figure so prominently in the USDA’s recommendations.

Recommended Websites:

Oldways: http://www.oldwayspt.org/

Non-profit organization focused on changing the way we eat.

Marion Nestle: http://www.foodpolitics.com/

Website of the New York University nutrition professor, with links and articles

Michael Pollan: http://michaelpollan.com

Website of the writer and University of California professor. See especially “articles” and “today’s link” sections

Frances Moore Lappé, Small Planet Institute: http://smallplanet.org/

Website of the Small Planet Institute, which promotes the work and social activism on Frances and Anna Lappé.