Author Archives: foodanthro

2014 Thomas Marchione Food-as-a-Human-Right Award

The Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition is pleased to announce an endowed award that honors the seminal work Dr. Marchione did on behalf of the poor and undernourished in academics and through his work as a Peace Corps volunteer, at The Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, The Great Lakes Project on the Economic Crisis and USAID.  Made possible through generous donations of family and friends, this annual award will be given to a student whose work continues and expands Dr. Marchione’s efforts toward food justice, food security and access, and most directly, food as a human right.  Students applying for this award should demonstrate active and productive engagement with food security and food sovereignty issues.  The award can be in recognition of exemplary work already accomplished, in progress, or for proposed research in the field of food as a human right and the social justice aspects of food systems.  It should show concern for the poor and undernourished and a willingness to take an active role in working on behalf of food sovereignty.  Ideally, it would be given to those who are trying to work, in Dr. Marchione’s words, on “the best and more sustainable approaches to fulfill the right to food.”  Given Dr. Marchione’s legacy, preference will be given to proposals from students actively engaged in the central issues that animated his career as a scholar-activist.

There will be one annual award of $600.  The award may be for proposed or in-process research or a research prize for completed work.  The deadline for applications is October 6th, 2014.  The award will be presented to the awardee at the SAFN annual business meeting at the AAA annual meeting.  For more information and application materials, click here or paste into your browser http://foodanthro.com/thomas-marchione-award/.

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Real Food on Campus

David Beriss
University of New Orleans

Are student activists transforming campus dining? And, if they succeed, what are the implications for the way Americans think about food?

We recently posted an article by Bonnie May, David Burley and Kellen Gilbert, of Southeastern Louisiana University, about efforts by students there to convince their university administration and Aramark (their food service contractor) to source more food locally. They have been building ties to local farmers, organizing a farmers market on campus and working to get Aramark to stock the campus salad bar with local produce. However, Aramark actively resisted these ideas and even took actions that undermined the students’ and farmers’ efforts. Even though SLU is located in a very productive agricultural region, with a long growing season and many farmers eager to work with the university, students eating on campus have very little access to local food.

This is true on university campuses all over the country. But there has also been a great deal of student activism around food, resulting in a growing commitment to local food by some colleges and universities. In perhaps the biggest move in this direction, the California State University system announced this week that 20% of the food on its 23 campuses will, by 2020, meet the standards of the Real Food Challenge (visit the site for details on those standards). The Cal State system is very large, with 447,000 students and 45,000 faculty and staff, spending over $100 million annually on food. This could prove to be a big enough move to catch the attention of companies like Aramark. One of Aramark’s competitors, a company called Bon Appetit, already promotes itself as providing a sustainable alternative food service. Their presence on campuses is probably evidence of successful student activism.

The movement for “real food” on campuses is more complicated than simply sourcing food from local producers. Students, faculty, and staff on campuses around the United States have long debated the quality of the food provided by food services. This has included an interest in food perceived to be healthier than had been offered in the past. But activists have also pushed for food that is more environmentally sustainable, which can mean a lot of different things, including local sourcing of ingredients. It might include food that reflects the local culinary culture, for example. Some have suggested cooperating with local restaurateurs, caterers, and food truck operators to increase the variety of dining options on campus and to encourage local business development. Organizing students to grow food on campus has also been a popular idea.

What does this all mean? It might be tempting to suggest that this is merely a kind of consumerist fight. After all, college is expensive and students are the customers. If they don’t like what they are getting, they have a right to demand something else. Yet that is not really how the fight is framed. Rather, students involved in these campaigns draw on ideas about health, about the environment, fairness (to workers, farmers, and fishers) and about local business. The movement is clearly connected with food activism in other segments of American society. It may represent a challenge to the corporate logic that has come to dominate higher education in recent years.

It would be interesting to hear from SAFN members about their experiences of student food activism. Is food a target for student activism where you work?

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Filed under agriculture, economics, farming, food activism, students

Connecting Students and Farmers—Still Trying

SLU students educating students

SLU students promoting real food.

Bonnie May, David Burley and Kellen Gilbert
Southeastern Louisiana University

Part Two

Our last installment, in spring 2013, left us on a high note as we introduced our student group Reconnect, the environmental sociology class project and the very successful farmers market.  There was a real buzz we all felt at the market on Food Day.  We were excited the diversity of produce grown just a few miles from campus.  It should be possible to have locally grown real food available in our campus cafeteria, right?  The farmers were game.  So, that brings us to…

Corporate Bullies.

Our students challenged the University administration and local Aramark dining managers to source more food directly.  They started by bringing the Aramark manager and the leaders of the local farmers’ cooperative together to develop a plan in which the farmers could regularly deliver sustainable, seasonal produce for the campus cafeteria’s salad bar.  The farmers were excited about the possibilities—not only connecting more with students but also opening up a new market for their produce.  This was a small step, but one both the students and the farmers were convinced could be successful, with potential for growth.

Then, inexplicably, Aramark ceased contact with Reconnect. The students continued to send emails to the dining manager and other personnel, but, still, no response. At the same time this was happening, Aramark’s corporate headquarters issued a national directive forbidding communication with university students affiliated with the Real Food Challenge.

After months of letters and emails from Reconnect requesting meetings, the local Aramark representatives finally reached out to the students right before the next campus farmers market.  The campus dining manager acknowledged the students’ efforts and wanted to be involved but still was not ready to discuss “real food.”

SLU spring campus farmers market

Spring campus farmers market.

Aramark did indeed get involved.   The morning of the farmers market, as the farmers were unloading produce and setting up, Aramark set up their own table.   Right next to the Indian Springs Farmers Cooperative farmers, the dining manager and campus chef handed out brochures highlighting the “local” food they serve and their corporate policy on sustainable practices. They also handed out free fruit and vegetables.  The farmers and students of Reconnect felt this directly undermined their effort and goals.

Instead of cooperating with students, the corporate dining service at our university chose to dismiss a student-led initiative that would not have cost them, and in fact might have enhanced their image of ecological responsibility.  In the meantime, the salad bar in the cafeteria continues to feature tomatoes shipped from Mexico, onions from Washington and iceberg lettuce from California.

Some good has come out of this process.  Students are interested in learning about local farms and continue to support the markets on campus.  More farmers are participating, and local chefs have gotten in on the action, preparing dishes on the spot with the available produce.   We also have a new Farmers Market Manager Internship program.  While there have yet to be negotiations with Aramark, students are looking for other ways to achieve the goals of food justice…

To Be Continued…

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Filed under agriculture, anthropology, economics, farming, food activism, food politics, students

Call for Papers: Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

Your opportunity to present at the 113th American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington, DC., December 3-7, 2014

 REMINDER!            REMINDER!            REMINDER!

SAFN is seeking proposals for Invited Sessions, Volunteered Papers, Posters and Sessions, and alternative session formats including Roundtables and Installations

The Deadline for Submission is 5 PM EDT, TUESDAY APRIL 15th

Click here for more information on session types and requirements.

THE THEME of this year’s conference is “Producing Anthropology”. The AAA executive committee asks us to examine “the truths we encounter, produce and communicate through anthropological theories and methods.” In particular, we are asked to consider how we create and disseminate knowledge to diverse audiences, and “how will the truths we generate change as we contend with radical shifts in scholarly publishing, employment opportunities, and labor conditions for anthropologists, as well as the politics of circulating the anthropological records we produce?” SAFN members are particularly well situated to contribute to discussion around the theme, as many, if not most of us, work across anthropological sub-disciplines and/or with colleagues in other disciplines, and sharing knowledge for diverse academic and non-academic audiences. More information about the national meeting, including elaboration of the theme and important dates, is here.

INVITED SESSIONS are generally cutting-edge, directly related to the meeting theme, or cross sub-disciplines, i.e. they have broader appeal. Session proposals should include a session abstract of no more than 500 words, key words, number of participants in the session, anticipated attendance, as well as the names and roles of each presenter. Individual presenters must also submit their own abstracts (250 words), paper title and keywords via the AAA meeting website also by 5 PM EST, April 15. Any discussants or chairs must also be registered by April 15th. Please note there are no double-sessions this year! One way to increase your and our presence at the meetings is to have a co-sponsored invited session between SAFN and another society. Invited time is shared with the other sub-discipline and the session is double-indexed. Please include any other societies we should be in contact with about possible co-sponsorships.

VOLUNTEERED SESSIONS are comprised of submitted papers or posters that are put together based on a common theme as well as sessions proposed as invited that were not selected as such. Volunteered session abstracts should be 500 words or less, individual paper abstracts 250 words or less. Both session and individual abstracts must be submitted via the AAA website by 5 PM EST, April 15.

NEW! RETROSPECTIVE SESSIONS are intended to highlight career contributions of established leading scholars (for example, on the occasion of their retirement or significant anniversary). A session abstract of up to 500 words is required. Participants are bound by the rules of the meeting and must submit final abstracts, meeting registration forms and fees via the AAA website by April 15.

INSTALLATIONS are a creative way to present ideas that capture the senses, and may include performances, recitals, conversations, author-meets-critic roundtables, salon reading workshops, oral history recording sessions and other alternative, creative forms of intellectual expression. Selected Installations will be curated for an off-site exhibition and tied to the official AAA conference program. Organizers are responsible for submitting the session abstract (of no more than 500 words), keywords, length of session, anticipated attendance, presenter names and roles by 5 PM EST, April 15.  Presenters must also be registered by the April 15 deadline. If you have an idea that might require some organizational creativity please contact the Executive Program Committee as soon as possible.

PUBLIC POLICY FORUMS are a place to discuss critical social and public policy issues. No papers are presented. Instead, the ideal format is a moderator and up to seven panelists. The moderator, after introductions, poses questions that are discussed by the panelists. It is recommended that at least one panelist be a policymaker. Proposals should include a 500-word abstract describing the issue to be discussed, and the moderator and panelists’ names. Submissions are reviewed by the AAA Committee on Public Policy; the deadline for forum submissions is 5 PM EST, April 15.

ROUNDTABLES are a format to discuss critical social issues affecting anthropology. No papers are presented in this format. The organizer will submit an abstract for the roundtable but participants will not present papers or submit abstracts. A roundtable presenter is a major role, having the same weight as a paper presentation. All organizers and roundtable presenters must register by 5 PM EST, April 15.

For further information or to log in to submit proposals, visit the conference web site. Remember that to upload abstracts and participate in the meeting you must be an active AAA member who has paid the 2014 meeting registration fee – membership exemption is in place for anthropologists living outside of the US/Canada or non-anthropologists.

If you’d like to discuss your ideas for sessions, papers, posters, roundtable discussions, forums or installations feel free to contact the 2014 Program Chairs, Helen Vallianatos (vallianatos@ualberta.ca) and Arianna Huhn (arihuhn@gmail.com).

We look forward to another exciting annual meeting with a strong SAFN participation!

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Kitchens, Detroit, North Korea, Farmers Market Policy & More!

GradJournalFoodStudiescover

 

David Beriss
University of New Orleans

We recently renovated our kitchen. As anyone who has done this knows, the process can be expensive and traumatic. You learn things about your house, your family, and yourself that you might not want to know. You spend more money than you expect, eat out more often than you should (or can stand), and drive your friends nuts. However, if you can step back and view the process more objectively, you might learn that the contemporary American “trophy kitchen” is a monument to social distinction, to the glories of consumption, to the ways of households, kinship, and social life. This ought to be obvious, I suppose, but I owe that insight not to my own hard won experience of kitchen renovation, but to an article by Emily Contois, “Not Just for Cooking Anymore: Exploring the Twenty-First-Century Trophy Kitchen,” which is in the new Graduate Journal of Food Studies (2014, volume 1:1-8). Contois examines the history of these kitchens, drawing on design books, popular culture (MTV Cribs!), and other sources, producing a nice overview of what these kitchens mean today. I think her analysis is on target and definitely worth a read. Maybe while sitting at the island in your new kitchen.

Not interested in conspicuous kitchen consumption? There is more! The Graduate Journal of Food Studies has articles on food justice and activism in Detroit, gender, patriarchy, and food propaganda in North Korea, and an analysis of best practices for farmers market incentive programs. The journal also features art work in between the articles and has a book review section.

So, this is a new food studies journal, which is no doubt a good thing. But this one is produced and edited by graduate students in Boston University’s Gastronomy Program. The journal is peer reviewed and published twice-a-year on-line, so you can access it immediately. The articles, reviews, and art are by students studying food (although not necessarily in food studies!) from a variety of universities, not just BU. In fact, the call for papers at the end of the journal encourages graduate students to submit their food-related essays to the journal. The deadline for the next issue is May 31, 2014. Submission guidelines are here.

 

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Good Foods and Foods Good for Health: Hunger and Obesity in Samoa

Kitchen counter with (from left to right) large pot with rice, sugar, teapot, and a bowl with boiled bananas with coconut cream (fa'i fa'alifu). Photo by Jessica Hardin.

Kitchen counter with (from left to right) large pot with rice, sugar, teapot, and a bowl with boiled bananas with coconut cream (fa’i fa’alifu). Photo by Jessica Hardin.

Jessica Hardin
Brandeis University

After a cup of sugary tea, John, a Samoan physician, explained to me that the major cause of metabolic disorders in Samoa is the lack of “access to a lifestyle where you can pick your own food.” He immediately offered himself as an example; “My own battle is with food, because we are family oriented and I find that I am healthiest when I am overseas working.” In other words, John found himself “pining for healthy foods” because when eating with his family he had to eat what was available. John felt he was “healthier” when he was traveling because he could choose his own foods, which were “foods good for” health. Others I interviewed would often bring up craving “good foods,” that is fatty, salty, and sugary foods. One diabetes patient, Iona, explained his difficulty with changing his diet: “I can see the piece of pork lying there, and the fried chicken leg. Well, I crave it. It is tempting you, even when I am given food cooked with vegetables. That’s good because it helps with my diabetes. It is best for me.” These vegetable options were good for health but were not the good foods (meaai lelei) Iona craved. Both John and Iona felt unsatisfied and hungry even though they had access to food; they also both struggled with their weight and controlling their diabetes.

***

Obesity research in Samoa tends to obscure the experiences of people like John and Iona, that is the experience of hunger and craving in a environment known for imported food dependence and obesity – Samoa. Anthropologists are increasingly calling for bringing obesity and hunger research together as “contingent circumstance[s] of inequality” (Pike 2014). Obesity research in Samoa has documented why obesity and related metabolic disorders have increased so rapidly. This research tends to focus on the culture of eating, feasting, and access to imported foods. However, the other side of food dependence is a story of craving, hunger, and desire, which needs equal attention. The lack of attention to the experience of hunger in obesity research reflects the drive in obesity research ‘to do something’ about obesity. The “war on fat” is waged domestically and globally and the rhetoric of epidemics reinforces the idea that all fat is unhealthy, that excess weight is a disease, and stigmatizing weight and eating is an acceptable, and even desirable, way to address said epidemic. As a result, the medicalization and moralization of fat can obscure the co-presence of the abundance of imported, fatty-salty foods and (the experience or fear of) hunger.

In other words, while Samoa is dependent on imported, highly processed foods, and these foods have become incorporated into food sharing and food values, not everyone across Samoa has equal access to those foods. Fear of hunger and desire for satiety encourages many Samoans to eat good foods, when they are available, even when these same foods are not considered good for health.

***

Family meals: Chicken with cucumber and white rice. Photo by Jessica Hardin.

Family meals: Chicken with cucumber and white rice. Photo by Jessica Hardin.

Many of the diabetes patients I interviewed understood they needed to eat differently than the rest of their family, but by eating differently they felt different––hungry or left wanting––even if they had plenty of food to eat. Manu, in his sixties who visits the diabetes clinic every month (indicating that he is not in control of his diabetes) said: “everything I like is not allowed. But if you want to live you have to exercise and eat, well not eat, because your life is in trouble. Sometimes it’s hard so I just eat.” When I asked Manu to speak more about why he “just eats” it became apparent that Manu struggled because he felt there was no food for him to eat, “I eat what [my family] gives me.” Another diabetes patient iterated this: “whatever foods I get that’s it, if they give me pork I eat it all.” For Manu, not only were the things he liked off limits but also in his household there were no alternatives. For alternatives foods to be available, he would have had to request different foods or preparations styles, which may have required the family to spend resources differently. Manu did not cook and did not earn cash and so despite being an elder in his family, who presumably could make demands to change household consumption, he refrained. Just as Iona desired chicken legs, many of my interlocutors experienced deprivation when changing their eating habits. “It’s the kind of thing where you love eating salty food so it’s difficult to change,” explained a nurse in a district hospital. She laughingly said, “this hunger, this appetite continues,” even after eating.

 Lea, a woman in her late forties, lived alone with her son. Instead of insisting that her son work the plantation, which would be a reasonable

Family meals: Instant noodles (saimini) with tinned corned beef (pisupo). Photo by Jessica Hardin.

Family meals: Instant noodles (saimini) with tinned corned beef (pisupo). Photo by Jessica Hardin.

response given that would be the family’s only access to cash (from the sale of crops) and starchy foods, Lea insisted her son stay in school. This meant Lea tended to the plantation. She said sometimes “there is nothing, I don’t know where to find food, maybe in the ocean sometimes. Sometimes I only boil a bunch of bananas for the whole day and night.” Only bananas is an idiom of hunger because it suggests that meals are incomplete. Starches alone without good food does not constitute what Samoans would consider a “meal.” The incompleteness leaves the person feeling hungry, despite access to some food. Another woman, I interviewed noted that sometimes her household has “only taro” to eat. She said, “it’s better to eat even when it’s bad food.”

***

This desire, or hunger for complete meals or good food, may encourage some to eat good foods when they are available, even if they are “bad” for health. These decisions reflect social and economic constraints, but satiety, desire, craving, and hunger for good foods also influences food choices. Epidemiological research has richly documented this “natural experiment” but in documenting these factors and features of global change, the experience of those suffering from cash-poverty and disease are often omitted. Inequalities generate hunger and craving, even when there is food available.

Jessica Hardin is a PhD Candidate at Brandeis University and incoming Assistant Professor at Pacific University. She is the co-editor of the volume Reconstructing Obesity: The Meaning of Measures, the Measure of Meanings . This post is based on a chapter, which will appear in the volume, The History of the Ethnography of Hunger: Research, Policy, and Practice, edited by Ellen Messer.

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Filed under anthropology, diabetes, food and health, hunger, obesity, Samoa

CFP: Anthropology of Child Feeding

CFP for Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association

December 3-7, 2014, Washington, D.C.

Panel Organizers: Chelsea Wentworth (University of Pittsburgh) and Lisa Garibaldi (UC Riverside)

Employing Visual and Digital Methods to Produce an Enhanced Anthropology of Child Feeding

This panel investigates the use of visual methods in researching childhood dietary practices. Drawing on the recent resurgence of interest in the experience of childhood and the expansion of visual methodologies, these papers will contribute to our understanding of the practice of child feeding. The intersect of visual methods as instruments of data collection and the study of child feeding provides greater insight into our understandings of how children access food, children’s food preferences, and the decision-making processes of caregivers as they feed children. We operationalize child feeding as any interaction that a caregiver or the child has in making food choices, and consuming food. Much research on child feeding practice has relied on heavily quantitative measures that examine nutritional value of foods and child growth (see Birch et al. 2003, Pelto et al. 2010). However, we argue that our understandings of the practice of child feeding are greatly advanced through the use of visual methods.

Filmic, photographic, and artistic representations of food production, distribution and consumption enable anthropologists to analyze the role food plays in the enculturation and the nutrition of children, particularly when these materials are gathered in conjunction with other methods such as participant observation, focus groups and interviews that allow for the contextualization of these data. We seek papers that discuss innovative visual methods including, but not limited to photo-elicitation, photovoice, visual voices, ethnomimesis, and drawing exercises, which create an opportunity for anthropologists to see participants’ perspectives of child feeding, leading to more nuanced understandings of human behavior. Visual methods, then, provide a way for researchers to gather data potentially inaccessible via other methods; for example, photographing food can help researchers work with illiterate caregivers who could not keep dietary journals, and illustrations can help young children, who have a hard time verbalizing, communicate.

Visual methods are not new to anthropology, indeed Mead and Bateson’s pioneering research using ethnographic film and photos dates to the 1930s and 40s. With the rapid advancement in digital technologies and increasing affordability of these products, however, ethnographers and research participants have more tools available than ever before through the use of products like camera phones and online media sharing websites. Acknowledging previous research on the use of visual methods in anthropology, this panel will examine how visual methods are applied in the study of child feeding. These methods help researchers gather data from both the children’s perspectives, as well as their caregivers.

We seek papers from all geographic regions that address methods in which the participants themselves create the images, helping anthropologists achieve a variety of objectives including, but not limited to: engaging in participatory and community-based research; helping participants use their film, photography, and artwork as forms of community activism; viewing activities and behaviors that occur when the anthropologist is not present. Additionally, we seek papers where the ethnographer creates the visual record capturing the process, movement, and fluidity of activities and events, as well as interactions, behaviors and food preferences. Keeping in mind the ways that we produce anthropology today, we argue that this mix of participant-driven and ethnographer-driven data collection using visual methodologies will foster new conversations and collaborations amongst those researchers engaging in food studies and visual methods. We encourage submissions that include innovative presentations of data in an effort to support the AAA’s work to “Reimagine the Typical AAA Presentation Format.”

Those interested in presenting a paper for this panel, please submit a 250 word abstract to Chelsea Wentworth cwm23@pitt.edu and Lisa Garibaldi lisagaribaldi@gmail.com on or before Friday, March 28, 2014. We will notify you by April 4th if your abstract has been selected to be a part of the panel.

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Filed under AAA 2014 Washington DC, anthropology, CFP, film, motherhood and feeding, nutrition