Professor discusses food choices, public health

As part of Health Symptoms Month, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University (NYU) Dr. Marion Nestle presented a talk concerning food issues and their effect on the political and geographical arena, entitled “Food Politics.”

“It’s critical to understand how food systems work if you want to understand why people eat the way we do, why it matters and how to make diets promote the health of people and the environment,” Nestle said.

In her lecture on March 23, Nestle discussed the rapid increase of diagnosed health issues over the course of the past decade, which she described as an “epidemic.” The biggest problem, she explained, is a proliferation of misleading labels and misguided marketing towards consumers of all ages.

Nestle went on to state that this public health crisis has created an environment which affects our food choices on a great scale. She said the increasing control of big food industries— including Coca-Cola, which feeds off of the health of its victims, also known as consumers— and funds studies to justify it, is at the root of the problem.

After attending a conference on anti-smoking advocacy, Nestle drew comparisons between tobacco marketing strategies and those of fast food companies. As a result, she encourages people to truly comprehend the health risks of their consumption.

Students, according to Nestle, have the power to address this problem and make impactful changes to better the status of public health.

“Students have way more power than most imagine,” she said, addressing the student-filled audience. ”Demand that your food service operations promote healthful, sustainable diets and source locally to the extent possible. Ask for courses in food systems. Join local organizations advocating for healthy eating, better access to healthful food and sustainable agriculture.”

Nestle’s book, “How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health,” not only gives insight and pedagogy to the food industry, but provides its readers figurative weapons they can use to actively participate in the war against rising health and environment issues.

Madeline Garb, a third-year majoring in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism, said, “I was a planner in the food symposium event, and I was interested in the politics that are going into our food choices. I think students can benefit by thinking twice about what they are buying from the grocery store [and by becoming] more conscious of the commercials and ads on the internet.”

As a member of Case Western Reserve University’s Food Recovery Network since her first year, Amalia Gitosuputro, a fourth-year chemical engineering major, found the lecture extremely enlightening.

“Any topic that relates to food really interest me,” she said. “I don’t really know much about the political side of food, but I am mostly knowledgeable about food waste. Coming to a talk like this was really eye-opening because I really knew nothing about this subject.”