What the heck is Food Studies??

I should preface this by saying that I entered my graduate program with some strong beliefs as to how our food system needed to change. I was convinced that meat and dairy industries are unnecessary evils, that buying local was politically, economically and environmentally responsible and that organic was the means by which we could save the earth we've so quickly managed to degrade.

What I've learned through my studies has shocked me. I still believe the meat and dairy industries are evil (no change there!), but my thoughts concerning the terminology of the food revolution have been completely altered. If anything, I assumed I would become even more passionate and empowered to fight against such injustices, but as it turns out, I've headed in the opposite direction!


 Our bodies cannot function without protein. Now this is not to say that meat is the only source, but I'm allowing myself to become a little more lenient and enjoy some turkey chili or some chicken on my pasta about once a week, as well as nuts, beans and legumes! Another vital nutrient? Omega 3's are huge in promoting cardiovascular health as well as a huge assortment of other health benefits, so I've also upped my seafood intake!

food systems

Organic. Local. Natural. These words have lost all meaning. There's so much grey area in the land of organic foods. According to the USDA, meat, dairy and produce may be labeled as organic if the amount of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is under a certain percentage. This means that your certified organic veggies may still have traces of serious toxins! Then on the other hand you have the small farmer who produces organically, but doesn't want to jump through the hoops (and pay up!) that the USDA requires to be certified. Which is better?

Local is also a tricky little word. There is no designated distance that qualifies a product to be labeled as "local." This means that your freshly grown produce can be grown on the farm down the road. Or it could be grown on a nearby industrial farm. Or it can be grown by a small farmer..in California! There's a common misconception that the words "organic" and "local" are synonymous with each other and it's just not true.

food access
I literally had no idea the significance of the relationship between gender and food. We all know it's common for the woman to be the obtainer and preparer of household meals, but there's so much more planning and "invisible labor" (as we foodies call it) that goes into making a meal that is not taken into account. It's partly discouraging that women have not escaped this societal expectation. On the other hand, it's empowering to know that as women, and as "homemakers," WE have the power to erect change within the global food chain!

These are just a few of my observations as I've passed the halfway point of my first semester in grad school (eek!). As is usual in the acquisition of knowledge, I'm finding myself frustrated, confused and discouraged, but I remain hopeful that by the end of my program I'll be confident in my ability to
feed the world!


  1. Kaity! I've begun to notice how extremely unhealthy I am when it comes to the things I put in my body. I REALLY want to change that...and as naive as this may sound I'm totally clueless about nutrition! Have any suggestions for a good basic, beginners book to nutrition?! I've looked for "Nutrition for Dummies" but can't seem to find it, haha.

  2. My Nitwee! I'm so excited you asked. I've spoken to two different RD's who both raved about What to Eat by Marion Nestle. I got it, but obviously haven't really had time to read it. It looks like a pretty easy read though, and it's nice because you can skip around to whatever interests you!