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Facing our Food Future

  • Smithsonian researcher Briana Pobiner, first up in the "Our Food, Our Future" series, will speak Feb. 20 on the ...
    Smithsonian researcher Briana Pobiner, first up in the "Our Food, Our Future" series, will speak Feb. 20 on the Paleo diet.
    Smithsonian Institution
February 20, 2014
Leading scholars and activists discuss “Our Food, Our Future” in a new lecture series that begins February 20 with a look at the true Paleo diet.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—From the White House to school cafeterias across the country, Americans are thinking more critically about what they eat. How does our diet affect us and what does it say about our society? These questions will be considered in a special four-part series at Washington College and in Chestertown from February 20 to April 17. 

The program series, “Recipes for Change: Our Food, Our Future” will feature nationally renowned experts: Smithsonian scientist Briana Pobiner, environmental historian Ann Vileisis, nutritionist and filmmaker Amy Kalafa, and Growing Power, Inc. founder and CEO Will Allen.   

The speakers will address the evolution of the human diet, how our food choices reflect our changing values about health and the environment, and how we have reached what some see as a crisis point in the way food is produced and consumed in 21st century America. “The cultivation and distribution of wholesome food to all Americans is one of the greatest civil rights struggles of our day,” says Ted Maris-Wolf, deputy director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. “We’ve lost our way, and our four speakers will demonstrate how each of us can help save our land, our farms, and our children.”

Sponsored collaboratively by Washington College’s Department of Anthropology, the Center for Environment & Society, and the C.V. Starr Center, the series will provide new information and empower participants to make changes in their own lives, local schools and communities. Presentations will be followed by a question and answer period, book-signing and information exchange. In addition, informal receptions will feature foods discussed by the speakers and prepared by students in anthropology professor Bill Schindler’s Global Perspective Seminar.

John L. Seidel, director of the Center for Environment & Society, notes that, “There is so much about food that we take for granted, perhaps because our notions about it are fundamentally cultural. We learn these ideas early and seldom question them, even though beliefs about what is edible and ‘good for you’ have differed greatly over time and space.” But he emphasizes that it is a subject about which we need to know more.  “The old saying that you are what you eat is quite true, and what we eat and how we produce it also shapes our landscapes and impacts the natural environment in increasingly powerful ways.”  

Schindler, who is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, summarizes what organizers aim to accomplish:  “We hope to bring the audience through a powerful journey. The first two speakers will shed new light on the current state of the standard American diet by illustrating what nourishing human diets have consisted of for millions of years and contextualizing historic changes in the American diet. The next two speakers will offer real-world solutions to today’s major issues—school lunch programs and feeding the population with sustainable, healthy food.”


February 20: The Real Paleodiet

6:30 p.m. Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall Washington College

Curious about who first thought to slurp an oyster or suck the marrow out of animal bones?  Discover the facts, fallacies, and fantasies in our understanding of prehistoric diets. By examining early fossils, ancient stone tools, and living human and chimpanzee diets, Briana Pobiner demonstrates significant changes in the evolution of human diets with a focus on the increase in meat-eating. In addition to her research programs on topics as diverse as cannibalism in the Cook Islands and chimpanzee carnivory, Pobiner leads the extensive education programs at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Human Origins Program. She is also an associate research professor of anthropology at the George Washington University.


March 6: Kitchen Literacy

6:30 p.m. Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, Washington College

Award-winning environmental historian Ann Vileisis is the author of Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need To Get It Back, a book that explores the disconnect between Americans and their food sources. Vileisis vividly traces the evolution of industrial agriculture, the appeal of new technologies that led to the “denaturing of food”, and the current movement back to what she terms “a purposeful palate.” A Yale graduate in history, Vileisis has appeared on Martha Stewart Living, West Coast Live, and many other television and radio programs.


March 29: Lunch Wars

1:00 p.m. Emmanuel Church, 101 North Cross Street, Chestertown

Celebrate local foods at the 4th annual Locavore Lit Festival! Amy Kalafa, nutrition counselor, advocate, filmmaker (Two Angry Moms) and author of Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children’s Health, highlights this year’s festival. For more than 25 years, Kalafa has produced award-winning films, television programs and magazine articles in the field of health education. She holds a Lectureship at the Yale School of Medicine and Psychiatry and is a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher and an organic farmer.


April 17: The Good Food Revolution

6:30 p.m. Hyson Lounge, Washington College

Will Allen, son of a sharecropper, former professional basketball player, ex-corporate sales leader and now farmer, is among the preeminent thinkers of our time on agriculture and food policy. The founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc., a farm and community food center in Milwaukee, Allen is an authority in the expanding field of urban agriculture. At Growing Power and in community food projects around the world, he promotes the belief that all people should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods. Allen trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food. In 2010, Time magazine named Allen to its list of “100 World’s Most Influential People.” He joined First Lady Michelle Obama in launching her signature program to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity, “Let’s Move!”


For more information about “Recipes for Change: Our Foods Our Future,” please see http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/starr/or http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/ces/or call 410-810-7161. All programs are free and open to the public. 


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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship, public outreach and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.

The Center for Environment & Society (CES) focuses on connecting people with their environment and acknowledging that environmental problems are as much people problems as they are scientific problems. CES offers lecture series and competitively awarded student internships that put students to work on real-world problems. In addition, the Center operates the Chester River Field Research Station at Chino Farms, the GIS lab and two research vessels. Signature programs include the Chesapeake Semester, the regional ShorePower Project, and the Chester River Watershed Observatory.


Last modified on Mar. 1st, 2014 at 8:10pm by .