A Taste of the Nation: Regional Cuisines in the New Deal Era

Camille Bégin
September 20, 2017
4:00pm to 5:30pm
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)

During the Depression, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) dispatched writers to sample the fare at group eating events like church dinners, political barbecues, and clambakes. Its America Eats project sought nothing less than to sample, and report upon, the tremendous range of foods eaten across the United States.

Dr. Camille Bégin shapes a cultural and sensory history of New Deal-era eating from the FWP archives, describing in mouth-watering detail how Americans tasted their food. Bégin explores how likes and dislikes, cravings and disgust operated within local sensory economies that she culls from the FWP’s vivid descriptions, visual cues, culinary expectations, recipes and accounts of restaurant meals. She also illustrates how nostalgia, prescriptive gender ideals, and racial stereotypes shaped how the FWP was able to frame regional food cultures as “American.”



U-M Library’s Special Collections Library is home to the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, which includes a wealth of cookbooks and ephemera documenting foodways in 1930s America.

Congratulations to SFSI affiliate and SNRE faculty member Aniket Aga for receiving the 2016 Sardar Patel award! The award was instituted in 2000. It honors the best doctoral dissertation on any aspect of modern India – social sciences, humanities, education and fine arts – in any U.S. University or academic institution awarding the Ph.D. See below for an abstract of Dr. Aga’s dissertation.

Genetically Modified Democracy: The Science and Politics of Transgenic Agriculture in Contemporary India

Aniket Aga (left) with Professor Akhil Gupta (right), Director, Center for India and South Asia & Professor of Anthropology, UCLA

“My dissertation sheds light on a central puzzle of democratic politics: how do democracies resolve controversies where conflicts of interest are intertwined with disputes over truth? It follows the life of an ongoing public policy controversy around the question: should India allow the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) or transgenic food crops? The controversy is concerned with some of the most significant technological changes in Indian agriculture since the Green Revolution, as well as with fundamental questions about manipulation and ownership of life itself. The dissertation is based on archival research, and on 24 months of ethnographic fieldwork with farmers, anti-GM activists, agricultural scientists, private seed companies, and government bureaucrats. The GM debate – the issues around which people have mobilized, and the ways in which they have mobilized – is usually framed as a conflict between farmers and transnational agribusinesses (e.g. Monsanto). However, specificities of the Indian case suggest that the GM debate is profoundly dependent on the historical conjunctures in which biotechnology was born as a new field of knowledge, and the political structures through which it consolidated itself, in India as elsewhere. Ultimately, I show how the GM debates are inflected by regional histories of science and politics, and how technical controversies alter the architecture of democratic decision-making, by opening up and re-negotiating questions of participation in them. Borrowing an analogy favored by proponents of GM crops, the DNA of democracy gets modified in the course of such controversies, which thus serve as crucial sites for the study of both democracy at work, and science in action.” – Aniket Aga


Congrats to SFSI affiliates Andrew Jones (SPH), Lesli Hoey (UP), and Marty Heller (SNRE) on their 450K Transformation Grant from Graham Sustainability Institute!

Researchers will analyze the links between diet, human health and environmental change in Kenya and Vietnam. Poor-quality diets underlie the most prominent causes of disease worldwide, while agricultural production is among the largest sources of global greenhouse gas emissions, consumes massive amounts of water, and contributes to nutrient pollution and deforestation.

ANN ARBOR—The Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan has awarded nearly $500,000 to support four sustainability-related research projects in the U.S. and abroad.

The four projects will investigate sustainable diets in Kenya and Vietnam, climate adaptation strategies of indigenous tribes in the Great Lakes region, climate-related health disparities among marginalized communities, and climate adaptation strategies for vulnerable communities along the northern coast of Ecuador.

Each cross-disciplinary team includes U-M researchers and external partners, including experts from other universities and colleges, tribal agencies and non-governmental organizations. The projects are funded through the Graham Institute’s Emerging Opportunities program.

“These projects reflect an exceptional range of sustainability initiatives being led by U-M faculty in partnership with local and global partners. I’m confident the results from these efforts will lead to meaningful lasting impacts,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel.

The largest of the four grants, a three-year Transformation Grant totaling $450,000, was awarded to a team led by Andrew Jones of the U-M School of Public Health. The project is titled “Leveraging existing data and insights into the policy process to accelerate progress toward achieving sustainable diets in the global south.”

Researchers will analyze currently available data from Kenya and Vietnam on the links between diet, human health and environmental change. Poor-quality diets underlie the most prominent causes of disease worldwide, while agricultural production is among the largest sources of global greenhouse gas emissions, consumes massive amounts of water, and contributes to nutrient pollution and deforestation.

In both Kenya and Vietnam, nearly a quarter of preschool-age children are stunted. While obesity is on the rise in both countries, the trend is especially evident in Kenya.

The goal of this project is to provide clear policy guidance that helps improve the sustainability of human diets in the two case-study countries. The researchers define sustainable diets as diets that are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems; culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; and nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy.

“In places like Kenya and Vietnam, there is an urgent imperative to reshape human diets to safeguard human health, mitigate climate change, and sustainably use the planet’s natural resources,” Jones said. “The expected long-term impact of this project is accelerated progress toward achieving the goals of sustainable diets in both countries.”

The core external partner for the project is the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, which has primary research hubs in Kenya and Vietnam that are supported through the Agriculture for Nutrition and Health Research Program.

Co-investigators on the research team are Lesli Hoey of U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Martin Heller of U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and Colin Khoury of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. Additional team members are Evan Girvetz and Stef de Haan of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

The Graham Institute also awarded three eight-month Catalyst Grants of $10,000 to support collaborative activities such as conferences, project planning, white papers and workshops. The Catalyst Grant projects are:

  • “Training in participatory methodology to investigate vulnerability and adaptive capacity to extreme climate events in northern coast of Ecuador.”

The northern coast of Ecuador is experiencing increasingly dramatic and unpredictable patterns of flooding and drought that threaten the socioeconomic stability and health of communities in the region. U-M researchers will partner with the Universidad Técnica de Luis Vargas Torres in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, to train faculty and students in research methods to help vulnerable communities devise climate-change adaptation strategies and to share findings with public officials.

The principal investigator is Joseph Eisenberg of the U-M School of Public Health. Co-Investigators are SNRE’s Maria Carmen Lemos and Environment and Betty Corozo of Universidad Técnica de Luis Vargas Torres. Additional team members: Ivan Cangemi and Gwenyth Lee of the U-M School of Public Health and James Trostle of Trinity College.

  • “Workshop to advance climate adaptation initiatives for indigenous tribes within the Great Lakes region.”

In light of the changing climate, the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan and its member tribes recently performed an analysis of projected climate conditions at mid-century, followed by an assessment of tribal resource vulnerabilities and the identification of climate-adaptation strategies. Since the completion of the ITCM assessment, member tribes have expressed the desire to gather and share stories about the progress and challenges faced by individual tribal communities in their efforts to apply climate-adaptation strategies. In collaboration with the ITCM, this U-M-led research team will host a workshop to address these needs and to determine future steps.

PI: Frank Marsik of U-M’s College of Engineering. Co-Investigator: Maria Carmen Lemos of SNRE. External partner: Robin Clark of the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan.

  • “Climate changes health: ensuring environmental justice underlies public health’s climate change work.”

Climate change disproportionately impacts vulnerable and marginalized communities, and an urgent response is needed to ensure that local planning efforts address these disparities. Marginalized populations may be at greater risk of health problems associated with heat waves and other extreme climate-related events. Those with preexisting chronic conditions, poor access to transportation, low health literacy, and those living in older housing stock—all factors associated with low socioeconomic status—are particularly susceptible to climate-related health problems. In this project, university researchers and environmental justice leaders will convene a summit to develop recommendations and will prepare a corresponding white paper.

PI: Natalie Sampson of U-M-Dearborn. Co-Investigators: Adrienne Hollis of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and George Washington University, Megan Latshaw of the American Public Health Association and Johns Hopkins University, Paul Mohai of SNRE, Carmel Price U-M-Dearborn, Fatemeh Shafiei of Spelman College, and Melissa Varga of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

For the first round of Transformation Grants, 12 proposals involving 39 U-M faculty members/researchers from seven units were submitted. For the latest round of Catalyst Grants, six proposals were submitted, involving 18 faculty members/researchers from eight units.

“We’re very pleased to have received so many high-quality proposals from talented faculty across campus. Important sustainability work is taking place throughout the university, and we’re happy to support it,” said Drew Horning, the Graham Institute’s interim director.

The Graham Sustainability Institute engages, empowers and supports faculty, staff and students from all U-M units and integrates this talent with external stakeholders to foster collaborative sustainability solutions at all scales. The Institute is supported by individuals, corporations, foundations, government agencies and the university. The institute’s work spans three areas: translational science, transformative learning and campus leadership. More at http://graham.umich.edu/


“Gambling, Binge-Eating and Other Addictive Behaviors”
Tuesday, April 25th
Dr. Marc Potenza
4448 East Hall

Dr. Potenza is a Professor of Psychiatry, Child Study, and Neuroscience at Yale University School of Medicine

Historically, the boundaries of addiction have been debated from both qualitative and quantitive perspectives.  Over the past two decades, there have been substantial changes in how non-drug behaviors are viewed within an addiction framework, in significant part driven by improved understandings of biological underpinnings of clinical phenomena.  This presentation will review the data underlying reconceptualization of addiction and reclassification of non-substance addicitve conditions with substance-use disorders, describing approaches used in generating DSM-5 and ongoing work relating to ICD-11.  The presentation will cover a broad range of addictive behaviors (gambling, Internet use, food/eating, and sex), and highlight areas in which improved understanding of pathophysiology may lead to advances in treatment, prevention and policy.

A lover of fresh lychees and satellite imagery, Meha Jain is the fifth and most recent addition to the University’s Sustainable Food Systems cluster hire. Based at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, her innovative work uses satellite imagery to support smallholder farmers and to understand the decisions they make in the face of climate change and other resource stressors.

Meha Jain | Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources

In what ways does your work relate to sustainable food systems? My work broadly tries to understand the impacts of environmental change and natural resource degradation on agricultural production and how farmers are responding and adapting to these changes. I seek to find ways to sustainably enhance production and incomes for farmers in smallholder systems that are being impacted by multiple shocks like climate change and natural resource degradation. My goal is to figure out ways to more efficiently use limited natural resources, to increase equity, and to sustain current levels of production.

 What is your strongest food memory? I have strong memories of eating fresh lychees and mangos in India as a kid. My family moved from India to Canada, and every five years we would visit extended family and spend the summers in India. My grandfather and uncles are farmers in Northern India in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and I remember walking around the farm picking fresh mango and lychees. After coming back to Canada, I would try to find lychees and mangos in the grocery store and it was just not the same!

How has being a part of the sustainable food systems cluster hire impacted your first year on campus? Both personally and research-wise, it has been great to join an existing community of people who are interested in the same sorts of issues and questions. I’ve coordinated with Andrew Jones (Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health and part of the Sustainable Food Systems cluster hire) to understand factors influencing farmer nutrition in India and with Jennifer Blesh (Assistant Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment and also part of the cluster hire) to map changes in agricultural production in the US and link them to environmental impacts.

Tell us about your recent sustainable food system research. My lab takes a mixed methods approach where part of our work uses satellite data to map yield, crop type, and cropped area across large spatial and temporal scales. This is exciting because often times researchers and policymakers rely on coarse data available at the district and state scale. Satellite data allow us to develop the same data products but at a fine spatial scale. For example, my colleagues and I have mapped cropped area at a scale of 1×1 kilometer across India and mapped wheat yield at a scale of 30 meters across Northern India.

To complement the large scale agricultural production patterns from satellite date, my group and I conduct household surveys to understand the factors influencing farmer decisions. Specifically, we examine how farmers are perceiving and adapting to environmental change, like climate change and natural resource degradation.

What are some Ann Arbor, Detroit or University events, projects or organizations that you are excited about? FarmLogs is an innovative startup based in Ann Arbor that uses satellite imaging to improve farmer decision making, primarily on field to enhance agricultural production and yield. This technology assists farmers’ management decisions with information that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I think the work they are doing is very exciting and it dovetails into my work in India. Overall, we are both working with farmers to enhance sustainable food systems on the ground.

Dr. Wayne Roberts will be in Michigan April 4-6!

#1) Food Literacy for All
Tuesday, April 4 6:30-8pm
“Make America’s cities great again: How food policy can heal and overcome deep social divides”

RSVP opens March 28 (Click here)

#2) Facilitating urban food systems change around the world: Seven habits of highly effective food organizers. A student-focused workshop and conversation with Wayne Roberts

Wednesday, April 5, 9-10:30a.m.
Art & Architecture Building, Room 2108, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Co-sponsors: UM Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the UM Sustainable Food System Initiative

Coffee, bagels and fruit will be served.





#3) A two-way street: What cities can do for food, and what food can do for cities
Wednesday, April 5
UM Detroit Center

Co-sponsors: The Detroit Food Policy Council, UM Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, Taubman College

#4) “Growing food councils and other community food groups to strengthen Michigan communities”
A talk and discussion with Wayne Roberts
Thursday, April 6, 11a.m. to 1p.m.
Washtenaw Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI

Co-sponsors: MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, the MI Local Food Council Network, and the UM Sustainable Food System Initiative

Lunch is included and the meeting is free but registration is required. 


The School of Public Health Nutritional Sciences Student Association and Student Advocates for Nutrition invite you to:

Food Policy in the Next Four Years:
A Keynote by Oran Hesterman and a Panel with Betti Wiggins, Michelle Napier-Dunnings, and Amanda Edmonds:

Wednesday, April 5th from 5-7pm
Great Lakes Central Room, 4th Floor, Palmer Commons

RSVP here

As public health faces challenges of obesity, food insecurity, and their consequences, food policy can play an important role in the solution. What lies in the past, present, and future of food policy in the United States? How can we take action to promote public health under a new kind of presidential administration?

Following a keynote by Oran Hesterman of the Fair Food Network, SPH faculty Dr. Julia Wolfson and Dr. Andy Jones will moderate a panel featuring Betti Wiggins of Detroit Public Schools, Michelle Napier-Dunnings of the Michigan Public Health Institute and Michigan Food and Farming Systems, and Amanda Edmonds of the City of Ypsilanti and Growing Hope.

Brought to you by the Nutritional Sciences Student Association (NSSA) and Student Advocates for Nutrition (SAN), in collaboration with the University of Michigan School of Public Health Department of Nutritional Sciences and the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program.

Power and Politics in Detroit: The Possibilities of Urban Farming
Thursday, March 30 at 6:30pm
Dana Building, room 2024

Join Epsilon Eta and the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program for a panel discussion on Detroit’s growing urban agriculture movement. The discussion will focus on the narratives surrounding the movement, the community power fostered by it, and the racial and class inequities in existing food systems that drives it forward. Panelists include Shane Bernardo of Earthworks Urban Farm, Naim Edwards of Voices for Earth Justice, Jerry Hebron of the North End Christian Community Development Corporation, and Greg Willerer of Brother Nature Produce. Moderated by SFSI faculty Lesli Hoey, Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning.


Nutrition and Cardiovascular Disease: “Taking the ‘DIE’ out of DIET”

Kim Allan Williams, Sr., M.D.
Thursday, March 30 12-1 pm
Medical Sciences Building 2
West Lecture Hall, RM 3697 (the Med School campus)

James B. Herrick Professor & Chief of Cardiology
Rush University Medical Center
Published author on over 50 scientific articles

Dr. Williams will present scientific evidence on dietary changes to improve cardiovascular health. Attendees will enjoy a delicious vegetarian lunch prepared by Chef Amber Poupore of The Clean Plate restaurant!  Please RSVP by Friday Mar 24 using this link

Send questions for the Q&A Session to wotana@umich.edu by March 24

This event is made possible by generous support from the Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group, the Medical School’s M-Home programChef Amber Poupore, and the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the School of Public Health.