Posts Tagged: Berkeley Food Institute
Edible Education course draws a crowd
Not just what we eat, but also how food is produced and its impacts on the economy, health and the environment. How the food system has been transformed, why it matters and what we can do about it.
“People care about food,” said opening lecturer Michael Pollan, author and UC Berkeley journalism professor. “I think food is a very powerful teaching tool.”
Pollan and Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters, a UC Berkeley alumna who founded the Edible Schoolyard Project, started Edible Education in 2011 as a way to bring food education to undergraduate students. This semester's course — which is co-hosted by New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman and poet Robert Hass — has an added dimension: Lectures are being live streamed to the public. The opening lecture has received more than 7,000 views so far. Upcoming guest speakers will include Marion Nestle, Eric Schlosser and Raj Patel.
“We're a public university,” said course instructor Garrison Sposito, a renowned UC Berkeley soil scientist. “Let's reach the public. How can we do that in today's world? Let's do that by technology.”
As part of the UC Global Food Initiative, UC Berkeley also hopes to offer Edible Education as an online course available for credit to students throughout the UC system, said David Chai, special adviser to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.
Edible Education is presented by the Edible Schoolyard Project, Berkeley Food Institute, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources and UC Global Food Initiative with support from the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Office and the Epstein/Roth Foundation.
Advancing food studies
“If you look at the lineup of speakers, it's pretty impressive,” said Bittman, who is a distinguished visiting fellow this spring at the Berkeley Food Institute. “I think the results will be fantastic.”
Having the support of UC President Janet Napolitano and the Global Food Initiative adds credibility to the study of food, said Nestle, a food studies, nutrition and public health expert who will deliver the next Edible Education lecture at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2.
Nestle, a New York University professor with a visiting appointment at UC Berkeley's journalism school, recalled having to convince NYU's administration in 1996 that food studies was a suitable academic pursuit. “We were it at the time,” Nestle said. “Now everybody's doing it. It's very exciting.”
Hass, a UC Berkeley professor of English and former U.S. poet laureate who has taught an environmental studies course with Sposito, said that when they invited Pollan to speak nearly two decades ago, “you could see the way students were engaged. Immediately, they could connect.” Today's students are even more sophisticated, Hass said.
“It's important that we all become more aware of what the food industry is doing — I can't walk by without someone eating a hamburger,” UC Berkeley sophomore Audrey Nguyen said. “We can't sacrifice our health for convenience.”
Pollan said there is a place for meat but he encouraged people to eat less of it and said he would like to see changes in how animals are raised. During his lecture, “A Brief History of the Modern Food System,” he noted a rapid transformation into an oil-dependent food chain. He demonstrated his point by placing a McDonald's hamburger on a table with four glasses, into which he poured a dark liquid (chocolate syrup) meant to represent oil.
“(It takes) 26 ounces of oil to produce one double quarter pounder with cheese,” Pollan said. “We're eating a lot of oil.”
Upcoming Edible Education lectures will further explore the rise and future of the food movement.
- Edible Education (includes link to watch lectures live)
- Food luminaries to light up spring semester
- Mark Bittman's menu to include UC Berkeley
- Food education streams into the spotlight
- UC Global Food Initiative
The new Berkeley Food Institute: On a mission
“Food commands attention and brings people together,” says L. Ann Thrupp, executive director of the Berkeley Food Institute, a new interdisciplinary research center comprising five different UC Berkeley schools. “It touches on every aspect of human society.”
It’s bringing academia together, too. Food research centers have been springing up at campuses across the United States as higher education takes on the complex topic from multiple perspectives.
“The academic community is recognizing that when it comes to food, it’s no longer possible to tease out agriculture from environmental, public policy, social justice and public health issues,” Thrupp says.
UC Berkeley’s new initiative is ambitious. In development for nearly two years before its launch this fall, the center has a mission to help achieve transformation in the food and agriculture systems, making them more diverse, healthy, resilient and just — at local, regional, national and international levels.
The Institute will pursue that transformation by supporting and galvanizing collaborative research efforts across its five partner units — Berkeley Law, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the Graduate School of Journalism, the School of Public Health, and the College of Natural Resources (CNR) — and with faculty affiliates throughout the University.
But, as befits Berkeley’s storied history of activism and leadership, the Institute’s vision is larger than publishing in academic journals. Its leaders plan to break down the traditional boundaries between academia and society and connect with boots-on-the-ground stakeholders who can help identify knowledge gaps and use research to bring about real changes in the food system.
“It is not enough to conduct research — the fruits of this research must be delivered broadly to civil society and to policy makers,” says Claire Kremen, a conservation biology professor and one of the Institute’s two faculty co-directors. “That’s why the schools of journalism and of public policy are key collaborators. They have the expertise to communicate our findings to key sectors and actors in society and government.”
Thrupp echoes the point. “Making an impact will require the engagement of multiple sectors, including scientists, farmers, food system workers and policymakers — at all levels,” she says. “The Berkeley Food Institute will help facilitate those crucial connections.”
This fall, two heavy-hitters from far-flung corners of the food world are helping the Institute start making those connections, as its first visiting scholars. Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, fights hunger worldwide and defends food as a “human right.” Saru Jayaraman, head of the UC Berkeley’s Food Labor Center, has fought to improve wages and working conditions for food workers, and to broadly communicate the issues they face.
The next panel, “The Right to Food: Reshaping Policies for Development and Public Health,” scheduled for Oct. 28, is moderated by J-School Dean Edward Wasserman and features De Schutter and public health and ag-econ faculty.
The fall programs culminate with “What’s Next for the Food Movement?” a conversation between author and journalism professor Michael Pollan and, fresh from the Obama administration, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan. It’s moderated by journalist Linda Schacht.
The dynamic public events series, what organizers are calling “The Food Exchange,” is just a taste of the conversations, investigations, and collaborations to come, both behind the scenes and in a public forum.
“It’s inspiring that so many researchers, students, stakeholders and community members are interested and involved in the Berkeley Food Institute and our mission,” Thrupp says.
- Listen to an interview with faculty co-directors Claire Kremen and Alastair Iles, which aired Sept. 6 on KALX.