The common expression that “we are what we eat” only partially captures the reasons why food is such an important topic. How we produce food and choose the food we consume directly shapes not only who we are, but it also directly affects our health, the health of others, the health care system of the United States, the underlying economy, and ultimately the planet and all the living beings residing on it.
Food and health, in short, are so closely intertwined that one cannot be sensibly considered without an in-depth examination of the other. Topics range from increasing cancer and obesity rates, environmental toxicity of pesticides, the health and ethics of meat production, the erosion of a rich historical and cultural heritage that once connected food, society and land to its replacement by a ‘McDonaldization’ of production types and consumer choices. Since these topics cross disciplinary boundaries, they connect the natural sciences with the social sciences and the humanities at a time when Dickinson College is trying to make sustainability a defining feature of academic learning and institutional policy. Moreover, sustainable agriculture and the related food system that supports it present opportunities for business entrepreneurship and venues for spirited debates over a wide variety of issues, including food labeling, genetic modification, and organic food standards.