America’s dysfunctional food system: How it got that way and what we can do about it
Contemporary America's food supply is more abundant and diverse than that of any other country in the history of the world, yet this same food system is killing us and the planet in a multitude of ways. Our national rates of food-related disease--obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer--go up almost every year. Our enormous appetite for inexpensive meat fosters deforestation in South America and contributes significantly to global warming. And while some of us suffer from an over-abundance of food, much of which is delivered in the form of nutritionally empty calories, almost a billion people around the world suffer from chronic food scarcity. In this class we will explore the history of how we got ourselves into this mess, and examine a range of proposals for how we might be able to find our way out of it. Is eating locally the answer? Is that really feasible? Should we instead encourage the creation of large-scale organic production? But what if those goods have to travel thousands of carbon-producing miles to get to us? And what difference do any of these questions make if American consumers continue to prefer fast food and highly-processed foods to more nutritionally-rich ones? Is it really possible to transform the diet of an entire nation for the better? If so, how would that transformation happen? Scientists, historians, chefs, farmers, artists, and politicians have all begun weighing in on these and other important questions. After a semester of engaging with works such as Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and films like Food, Inc. we will be better prepared to provide some answers of our own. At the very least, we will all have fuller knowledge of the stuff we put in our mouths every day.
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