Author Archives: Lee Taylor-Penn

Film Screening & Discussion with filmmaker: A Table for Sixty-Thousand
Thursday, March 31 @ 5pm

Dana Building, Rm 1040
440 Church St
University of Michigan

The free community kitchen at The Golden Temple feeds thousands of people daily.

About the film: Each day, about 60,000 vegetarian meals are prepared and shared by visitors to The Golden Temple. Anyone can participate in the preparation, cooking, serving and sharing of the free meal. In 2014 and 2015, students from the University of Michigan spent one month with SFSI affiliated faculty Jasprit Singh to study how the concept of langar (free community kitchen) works. The film is based on over five years of study of the langar and also incorporates experiences of UM students.

Discussion panelists will include filmmaker Teresa Singh and UM students that participated in a trip to The Golden Temple. A light reception of Indian food will follow the event.

Ask Your Chefs:
Dinner and a Food Talk Series on Local and Sustainable Eating
Tuesdays April 5, April 19| 6 – 7:30pm

Munger Graduate Residence, North Lounge, 8th Floor
540 Thompson St
University of Michigan
*RSVP Required*

Join four Ann Aask your chefsrbor chefs for dinner and a discussion about the different benefits surrounding local and sustainable eating, an edible demonstration of those benefits in-action!

The chefs will discuss the personal, environmental, and social aspects of food while showing students how they can participate in the ever-growing movement towards local and sustainable eating.

Please RSVP for the events you are interested in attending. UM Students will be given first priority.

Margot Finn | Lecturer, University Courses Division

When she isn’t teaching, Dr. Margot Finn can be found watching movies and reading IMDb. This isn’t your usual binge-watch—she analyzes mass media text in order to understand the U.S. food movement from the 1970s to the present. In our recent interview, she shares her insight on the intersection of food and culture.

Margot FinnWhere did you grow up? I was born in western Nebraska, but mostly grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.

What is your strongest food memory? My mom is a great cook and we cooked together a lot when I was a kid. One weekend when my dad was out of town, my mom decided to make an ice cream roll cake for his birthday. As my mom was on the final step, the cake completely fell apart and she collapsed into tears. Since the surprise cake was ruined, we decided to make the best of it. We grabbed forks, sat on the kitchen floor, and ate the cake out of the pan while the clock struck midnight.

Have any particular books, articles or documentaries had a significant impact on you? Rachel Laudan’s Cuisine and Empire traces the history of the five major world cuisines and dispels the myths we often hold concerning food. Historically, people mostly subsisted on grain porridge, and they had to deal with food shortages and food poisoning. Industrialization of the food system made people’s lives much better, and our demonization of the industrialized food system is short sighted.

The documentary Why are Thin People Not Fat? chronicles an overfeeding study of thin people. The film provides insight into the complexities of weight loss and weight gain.

What are you currently reading? I’m reading White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf by Aaron Borrow-Strain. The book explores how bread has been implemented in social issues, such as the women’s movement, healthism, and the stigmatization of poverty.

What brought you to UM? I started a Ph.D. in Literature at NYU in 2003, and then decided it wasn’t right for me. In 2004, I transferred to UM to start a Ph.D. in American Culture. After I finished my dissertation, I received an opportunity to teach at UM.

Tell us about your current research interests. I am interested in how people come to believe the things they do about food and how these beliefs change over time. I study the U.S. food movement from the 1970s to the present, though my work often references the gilded age (1890s to 1920s) as a historical comparison.

I mostly end up looking at mass media—so I spend a large part of my day watching movies and reading IMDb. My analysis is of mass media text (movies, television shows) and how people respond to mass media (online comments, blog posts). I look for patterns in stories and how audiences perceive the message. For example, Ratatouille and The Biggest Loser tell us that taste and the body are projects that we can control—but what do audiences members say about this?

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not researching/teaching/working? As a new mom, I spend a lot of time breastfeeding my one-month old. I also enjoy long walks, hikes, backpacking with my husband and friends, reading fiction, watching professional wrestling, gardening, canning, and baking bread.tahoe

Do you have any advice for students interested in food systems careers? Find people that are doing the work you want to do and schedule an informational interview with them. Ask lots of questions: “What do their jobs involve?”; “What do they wish they would have done differently?”. No matter the field, I’ve found that people often wish they had taken art history and practical classes like accounting.

What classes are you teaching in Fall 2016? As part of the Food Citizenship Project, I’ll be teaching a new PiTE freshman seminar course that looks at different aspects of the food system and engages students in experiential learning activities. I’m also teaching a seminar course on controversies surrounding obesity (UC 254: Obesity: The Science, Culture, and Politics of Fatness in America), and a food studies research methods class (Environ 302/UC 370: The Measure of Our Meals: Food Studies Research Methods) that covers life science analysis, ethnography, mass media analysis, and historical accounts.

Film Screening: In Defense of Food
Tuesday, March 15 | 4pm-6pm

School of Public Health 1, Rm 1755
1415 Washington Heights
University of Michigan

In Defense of Food debunks the daily media barrage of conflicting claims about nutrition. Traveling the globe and exploring the supermarket aisles to illustrate the principles of his bestselling “eater’s manifesto,” Michael Pollan offers a clear answer to one of the most confounding and urgent questions of our time: What should I eat to be healthy?
-PBSIn Defense of Food Poster_v2_JPEGFollowing the film screening, Nutritional Sciences Lecturer Susan Aaronson will lead a short discussion. Healthy snacks will be provided.

Sponsored by: The UM Sustainable Food Systems Initiative and Student Advocates for Nutrition

Cowspiracy Screening
Thursday February 18 | 5 PM

University of Michigan
Munger Auditorium
540 Thompson St
movie_screening_feb18_cowspiracy (1)

Why are some people mooing about the myth of the holy cow? What can we do to increase sustainability in our daily lives?

Climate Blue invites you to a screening of Cowspiracy followed by discussion and free dinner! Seating is limited, please RSVP to

This event is sponsored by Climate Blue, Global Engagement, and Munger Graduate Residences.

Lesli Hoey | Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning & Sustainable Food Systems cluster hire

Dr. Lesli Hoey has a boundless energy and appetite for change that permeates her personal and professional life. As a dual citizen of Bolivia and the U.S., Dr. Hoey is interested in facilitating change in food systems, international planning and development.

Pickup_HoeyWhere did you grow up? Until I was 18, I lived in rural Bolivia, western Pennsylvania on my grandparents’ farm, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

What is your strongest food memory? My fondest memory is of my dad making cheese in Bolivia. I loved sneaking some of the salted curds just before he would press them!  

Have any particular authors, articles or documentaries had a significant impact on you? Which one(s)? Kicking Away the Ladder by Ha-Joon Chang and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn—for thinking about the role that power, evidence, and paradigms play in transformative processes. Also Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky and documentaries by the Yes Men—for demonstrating how social change often requires creativity and comedy.

What are you currently reading? I’m reading Carl Sagan’s Contact, but I just picked up two books from the library that I’ve always wanted to read—A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn and Pedagogy of Hope by Paulo Freire.

What brought you to UM? The Sustainable Food Systems cluster hire was a rare opportunity, not only because it came with a ready-made interdisciplinary group of inspiring scholars, but also because it was housed in a well-regarded planning program that offered a concentration in international planning. I also happen to have a large number of extended family that live in Southeast Michigan—my maternal grandparents actually met in Highland Park.  

IMG_1762Tell us about your current research interests. Currently, I’m involved in two three-year projects and several smaller-scaled projects.

(1) One project in Bolivia, with two other Sustainable Food Systems cluster hires—Andrew Jones and Jennifer Blesh—is studying the links between obesity, undernutrition, food security, household food production and variations in urban, peri-urban and rural food retail and policy environments, in both mountainous and tropical regions of the country.

(2) I’m also the principal investigator for an external evaluation of a Kellogg-funded project being led by Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems, which is facilitating efforts to achieve the Michigan Good Food Charter goals by building statewide collaborations among emerging local food councils, food hubs, and local food purchasing initiatives.

(3) I also have several smaller pedagogy-focused research projects, to learn how to better prepare future international planning and food systems practitioners.   

Do you have any advice for students interested in food systems careers? Given how daunting the task of food system change can seem, it’s important to find an area where you can contribute most given your unique skills and energy. You don’t need a job title that says “food systems change agent.” You can integrate food systems into the mainstream of almost any field, by showing how efforts to build more sustainable, equitable and health-promoting food systems can also improve urban planning, public health, natural resource management, education, and many other sectors.  

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not researching/teaching/working? Traveling, going on road trips, hiking, running, dancing, sleeping, gardening, drawing, painting, cooking meals with friends, game nights…

P1000980What classes are you teaching in Winter 2016? The two courses I teach on food systems specifically will be next fall (2016)—“Foundations of Sustainable Food Systems”, an interdisciplinary course co-taught with Andrew Jones and Jennifer Blesh—and next winter (2017), “UP 525: Food Systems Planning,” which attracts students from planning, SNRE, SPH, SSW and many other fields.This term, I’m teaching “UP 658: Urban and Regional Planning in Developing Countries,” a foundational course for any student considering a future career in international development or urban planning in low-income countries, or who want to learn how global trends are linked to U.S. policies and cities. We only discuss food systems directly in one class, but many topics we cover relate to global food systems change.


The 8th Annual Local Food Summit
Local Food for Everyone
Monday, February 15th | 8:30am-5:00pm

Washtenaw Community College
Morris Lawrence Building
4800 E Huron River Dr

12507475_1020089388013838_5148796734014684044_nThe opening Keynote Panel will address the topic of “Local Food for Everyone: Farmer and Food Justice Perspectives,” with panelists Megan Deleeuw of Manchester’s Hand Sown Farm and Shane Bernardo of Earthworks Urban Farm. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Stefanie Stauffer of WCC and Tilian Farm Development Center. 

The Summit will also feature a celebration of Local Food Victories, a food-themed story slam, and over ten workshop sessions. Sessions include presentations by organizations such as the Washtenaw Food Policy Council, Argus Farm Stop, and ZingTrain; and, cover topics including visioning your farm business, farm-to-school gardens, soil health, seasonal cooking, permaculture basics and more. 

Youth (ages 5 to 18) are invited to join in these workshops, or to participate in activities including planting, taste education and food chemistry in this year’s Local Food Summit youth track.

Registration includes breakfast and lunch, coffee and snacks. Details about registration are available on the website at

Sponsored by: Slow Food Huron Valley, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Eden Foods, Argus Farm Stop, Washtenaw Community College and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

“The Honorable Harvest: Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation”
Thursday, February 11 | 4:30pm

University of Michigan
Dana Building (Rm 1040)
440 Church St

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.18.19 PM

Lecture @ 4:30pm with Dr. Robin Kimmerer on “The Honorable Harvest: Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation”

Panel Discussion on Traditional Ecological Knowledges @ 3:30pm with:
Robin Kimmerer, Professor
Joseph Gone, Associate Professor
Kyle Powys Whyte, Timnick Chair in the Humanities
Bradford Kasberg, MLA ’16

The event is sponsored by SNRE’s Dean’s Speaker Series

Video Recording here


Kids, Media, Bodies & Food: Highlights from a Cross-Disciplinary Research Program
Monday, February 8 | 3:30pm-5pm

University of Michigan
Institute for Social Research, Rm 1430
426 Thompson St

HarrisonKristen Harrison
, Professor and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Communication Studies; Director of the Media Psychology Program, Institute for Social Research

This talk summarizes select theory and research findings from an ongoing examination of family and community predictors of early childhood obesity begun as the STRONG Kids Program at the University of Illinois in 2008 and extended to the University of Michigan in 2011. The six-Cs ecological model of predictors of child energy intake and output is offered as a foundational framework, followed by select findings from research on families of preschoolers in Illinois and Michigan regarding the role of commercial media exposure in child dietary intake and developing healthy-meal schemas.


 An Examination of the Validity of Food Addiction
Monday, January 25 | 3:30pm-5pm

University of Michigan
Institute for Social Research, Rm 1430
426 Thompson St

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 12.57.04 PMAshley Gearhardt, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan

Highly palatable, highly processed foods are widely accessible, affordable, and available in large portion sizes. Could these foods also be addictive? A growing body of evidence suggests that certain foods may be capable of triggering an addictive process, especially in vulnerable individuals. The current talk will review the evidence for “food addiction” and will highlight questions that need to be investigated to further evaluate the role of an addictive process in problematic eating.


Sponsored by the Research Center for Group Dynamics