Author Archives: Jessica Darga

Faculty discuss foodways, agriculture in 10 mini talks


Art & Design prof. Joe Trumpey speaks about sustainable farming in his speech titled “Homesteading as Creative Practice” at the Fast Food for Thought discussion in the Dana Building on Tuesday. (Zoey Holmstrom/ Daily)

By Anna Haritos
October 28, 2015

The University’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative hosted 10 bite-sized talks Tuesday night on topics related to food and agriculture.

The second annual “Fast Food for Thought” talk brought together nine faculty members from several University departments, with the 10th “talk” formatted as a Q&A session. Each of the speakers was given five minutes to address a broad range of global and local food topics, including sustainability, potential connections between food and politics and the growing problem of herbicide resistance. The UM SFI encourages University students and faculty members to learn about and promote food systems that are beneficial to both the environment and economy.

More than 200 attendees filled the lecture hall in the Dana Building. Thomas Princen, associate professor of natural resource and environmental policy, started off the event by asking, “Why food, why now?” In his talk, he briefly explained his six hypotheses for why American interest in food has skyrocketed in the past few years.

Among them: the “brains and hands” hypothesis. What distinguishes humans from other animals, Princen said, is the ability to combine experiences both tactile and intellectual. He said because food engages humans both with their brains and with their hands, people connect with food.

“Just think about what you have to know to grow a crop, the land, the weather, the markets,” he said. “A lot of that knowledge is not from food study or data it is from the very feel of the land. Maybe the increased interest in food that we feel more human when we engage with food.”

University Lecturer Margot Finn discussed the connection between fast food and social class. During the talk, she cited statistics to debunk the association between poverty and fast food.

“The 2013 Gallup Poll that found that American households with annual income of over $50,000 a year were more likely to say they eat fast food on a weekly basis than lower-income groups,” Finn said. “Fast food consumption increases along with income, peaking in the $60- to $70-thousand-dollar bracket.”

She went on to discuss how families with lower incomes are more likely to make meals from scratch, as prepared and restaurant meals are often out of their budgets.

“One reason for the association between the poor and fast food is because people believe that eating fast food makes you fat, and poor people are strongly associated with fatness, and the other stigmatized characteristics that go along with it like ignorance, laziness, apathy and lack of willpower,” Finn said.

After the event, LSA junior Lia Parks said she didn’t realize how important food was in American culture.

“I never realized how food and sustainability were so intermeshed in culture, and that we need to rethink the way we do and think about things,” Parks said.

The article has been updated with an attendance tally from the event organizers.

Originally featured at The Michigan Daily 


New Position Opening in Sustainable Food Systems

Faculty Position in Sustainable Food Systems

The School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan (UM) seeks applicants for a full-time, nine-month faculty position in sustainable food systems. SNRE’s mission is to contribute to the protection of the Earth’s resources and the achievement of a sustainable society.

We seek applicants working on social science aspects of sustainability in the food system from production to consumption, with either an international or a domestic focus. Applicants’ substantive training and expertise may be in any field relevant to food systems, including business, economics, sociology, rural sociology, human geography, political ecology, political science, public policy, urban planning, natural resources, sustainability science, agriculture, and related disciplines. In addition to their disciplinary perspective, we seek candidates with experience, skills, and interest in integrating knowledge from multiple domains, through collaborations with people in other disciplines.

This position is part of a cluster of hires across the university. The position is inherently interdisciplinary, bringing together a number of new and existing faculty in a cross- disciplinary teaching and research effort in sustainable food systems.

The position will be filled at the assistant professor (tenure-track) level. A Ph.D. in a relevant discipline or interdisciplinary program is required by the time of hire, and postdoctoral experience is preferred.

Applications should include a cover letter, CV, a concise personal statement describing your vision and plans for research and education, a writing sample, and copies of three letters of reference.

To apply, submit application materials via the following web address:

Letters of recommendation should be submitted to:

Review of applications will begin on October 1, 2014. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Campus visits are expected to occur in November and December 2014. The position is expected to begin by September 1, 2015.

The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity employer, and individuals from under-represented groups are encouraged to apply. 

Growing Food on a Warming Planet

Virginia Ñuñonca, an extraordinary Peruvian farmer, was already living in poverty when climate change began to worsen her family’s situation. That’s when Sra. Ñuñonca took the initiative. She used new irrigation and planting techniques to transform her fields. Her success has inspired others, winning national attention as a leading indigenous farmer and an advocate for women’s equality.

Sra. Ñuñonca is travelling outside of Peru for the first time to share her story in the United States. Her tour is in support of a new Oxfam campaign calling on food companies to help reduce their harmful emissions and ask for other companies and governments to do the same.
Meet Sra. Ñuñonca at: Dana 2560, noon, Friday June 6th               RSVP:

List of Past Events

6th Annual Local Food Summit
Monday, March 31, 2014 @ 8:00 am to 4:00 pm; Pre-Summit Activities Evening March 30 Washtenaw Community College, Morris J. Lawrence Bldg., Ann Arbor

“Life Cycle Approaches to Food System Sustainability” Dr. Marty Heller
Friday, January 17, 2014 – 2:00pm to 3:00pm
1040 Dana Building
EVENT SPONSOR: Center for Sustainable Systems
School of Natural Resources and Environment

Homegrown Festival
The HomeGrown Festival at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market celebrates local food and community and seeks to focus broad mainstream attention on the community-wide benefits (and pleasure!) of eating from our own foodshed. Free admission, music and entertainment. Watch for it each fall. Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 6 – 10 p.m

Sustainable Food Careers Symposium
Sponsored by the Consortium on Agriculture, Food, and the Environment. FREE. Room 1040 Dana Building, U-M’s Ann Arbor Central Campus.

CAFE’s Sustainable Food Careers Symposium is a chance to hear and meet speakers from around Ann Arbor, Michigan, and across the country, all coming from a wide range of backgrounds in academia or with nonprofits, small businesses, big companies and farms.

Food Day
Created by Center for Science in Public Interest, Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. In October 2012, ProfessorCatherine Badgley, U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology sat on the Agriculture Panel. Watch a video of the discussions at the link above and check out updated tweets and lots of other great information on the Food Day website.

School of Natural Resources and Environment
Sustainable Food Systems Lectures

Harvest Festival at U-M Campus Farm
Oct. 4, 4 – 8 p.m., Matthaei Botanical Gardens
The menu features food from local small farms, all of it lovingly prepared by awesome University Unions Chefs. While you’re there you’ll have the opportunity to talk with students who are driving many of the initiatives we support! There will also be live music by a number of local acts and games and activities for everyone.  Register for the event

5 Healthy Towns Community Read

The goal of the 5H Community Read is to bring communities together in dialogue on the topic of wellness. This year we’re reading, In Defense of Food  by Michael Pollan. Read the book, share your thoughts by writing and signing the book and then pass the book to a friend. Look for a series of programs to encourage community interaction through healthy activities. Our kickoff will feature live music, a visit from food luminary Kim Bayer, and food events for kids. Pick up your copy of In Defense of Food, sample delicious food, and join members from all five healthy communities to promote health and wellness.

The Produce Cart
Fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies
Thursdays 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., June 21 through mid-October
Taubman Health Center (south end of level 2 near Go Brew coffee)

Sustainability and University Unions
In partnership with Central Student Government, University Unions hosts the MFarmers’ Markets in the fall. The markets are designed to provide an opportunity for students and the campus community to learn about the benefits of locally grown food, sustainable living and healthy eating. Two videos about the MFarmers’ Markets can be found at the link above.