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Teaching Food Politics

May 7, 2013

ClassroomThe explosion of materials on food politics, and the increasing popularity of food as an area of social science research, makes teaching a course on the politics of food both increasingly interesting and increasingly difficult. When I first started teaching my food politics course about ten years ago, there were shockingly few resources available. Most of the materials were either published in academic journals like Food Policy or Agriculture and Human Values, which were often cast at too high a level for the average undergraduate, or were popular books that lacked the rigor and research background of the academic literature.

I’m happy to say that this is no longer a problem. A growing number of books—both popular and academic—journal articles, films, blogs, etc. have been published over the past decade, starting most notably with Marion Nestle’s Food Politics (which celebrated its 10th anniversary with a new edition). Indeed, today instructors almost face the opposite challenge. The plethora of materials makes narrowing our choices down increasingly difficult.

Today, food is widely seen as an interesting avenue through which to explore broader social relations. But until relatively recently, as Nestle notes,

“Universities viewed food as too common a subject to be taken seriously. Now, practically every college and university uses food to teach students how to think critically about – and engage in – the country’s most pressing economic, political, social, and health problems. Many link campus gardens to this teaching. Food issues are high on the agendas of local, state, national and international governments.”

I’ll be sharing some of the activities, assignments, and readings I use in my classes over the next few days. But I’m curious how you teach your food courses? What’s your most effective teaching tool? Leave a comment and let us know.

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