Category Archives: Food Politics

A Full Plate, the Politics of Food at Morven Summer Institute

Have you been confused about summer? Have you asked "what is it for?”, “how much does it cost?” , “does it make my GPA look big?"
 
Get ready to be unconfused. What if you spent your summer tucked into the rolling green hills of Virginia learning how everything, SIMPLY EVERYTHING, is related to food? As you push your peas around on your plate, it all begins to make sense: food is politics and politics is power.
 
Paul Freedman and Leslie Hubbard after mindfulness exercise
Paul Freedman and Leslie Hubbard with Politics of Food participants after mindfulness exercise
You’re taking Paul Freedman's Politics of Food—that’s why it makes sense. The dense network of food, its producers, consumers, distributors, regulators, farmers, workers, marketers, restauranteurs, are everything to him. During the class he examines controversies over agriculture subsidies, labeling requirements, taxation, farming practices, food safety, advertising and education. Each of these things leads to an examination of American democracy—representation, regulation, legislation, and public opinion. Ultimately the class examines the ways in which the politics of food represents both a reflection and a distortion of fundamental democratic principles.
 
For support he draws from Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, all the big minds/big mouths in food. During this session he brings to the table D.C. food lobbyist Stuart Pape and mindfulness instructor Leslie Hubbard, from the Contemplative Sciences Center who teaches mindful eating, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, Martha Stafford of the Charlottesville Cooking School, Anna Maria Siega-Riz who helps the USDA develop Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Christianne Queiroz—Legal Aid Society and Program Director at the Virginia Farm Workers, and Seth Wispelwey, director of The Arbor, Charlottesville.
 
Freedman teaches Politics of Food during J-Term and Summer Session. This Summer Session, it’s a full-course 5½ hours a day for 10 days. The current session’s location is especially interesting—held on Morven Farm's 2,913 acres, which includes formal gardens, a Japanese tea garden,  horse barns, historic homes, a meeting barn complete with a movie theater, and a one-acre kitchen garden down the road from Monticello. Partial scholarships are available.
 
Remember: 99% of our time is spent thinking about food. Only the other 1% is attention focused on Donald Trump.
 
Food Politics on lunch break at Morven Summer Institute

Anna Maria Siega-Riz on the American Diet

Anna Maria Siega-RizDr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz visited Food Politics during J-Term. Her presentation was a recap of the process, negotiation, and compromise which she and her committee go through in revising the joint USDA/Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The 600 page document includes well-known suggestions such as reducing sugary drinks and trans fats, but also emphasizes less publicized ideas like the Mediterranean Diet.

The report is backed with science—hundreds of pages of analysis, conclusions, and recommendations. The Guidelines are revised every 5 years to account for new research and better data analysis.

Dr. Siega-Riz also covered some recent alcohol research which enlivened the Q&A.

Dr. Siega-Riz is Program Leader for the Reproductive, Perinatal, and Pediatric Program in the Department of Epidemiology at Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.