Marion Nestle has fallen in love. The object of her affection? The first nutrition course she ever taught.
Ever since her experience teaching the class, Nestle has been on a roll. Alongside her position as Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University Steinhardt, Nestle has written books on topics ranging from why calories count to how to best feed a pet. And from 2008 to 2013, Nestle wrote the “Food Matters” column for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Nestle will return for the first time since 2008 to the morning lecture platform at 10:45 a.m. Thursday in the Amphitheater. Her lecture, the fourth in Week Nine’s theme, “At the Table: Our Changing Relationship with Food,” will touch on the dynamic way people approach their plates.
“To me, the biggest change is the shift from the personal to the political — from only caring about food from the standpoint of what to have for dinner to a food movement focused on producing and consuming foods in ways that are healthier for people, fairer to everyone involved in the food system and more environmentally sustainable,” Nestle said.
In a Dec. 15, 2016, blog post, Nestle described Darryl Benjamin and Lyndon Virkler’s book, Farm to Table: The Essential Guide to Sustainable Food Systems for Students, Professionals, and Consumers as “weekend reading.” She lauded the book for its two-part system — the first titled “Food” and the second titled “Table.” The book talks about the true cost of what we consume and how to stop breaking the environmental bank.
Nestle penned her first book — a book on nutrition for medical students — in 1985. The rest of her publications examine the “politics of food”; the first, preceding seven more, was titled Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. She is in the process of submitting a manuscript for her next book, which will focus on “food industry funding of nutrition research and practice.”
“As for how they are received: Food Politics was very controversial, but it’s used in classes and is now in a third edition,” Nestle said. “My most recent book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning) got especially nice reviews.”
Due to the controversial nature of food politics, alongside her author- and professorship, Nestle also holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and MPH in nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley.
“The degree in molecular biology means that nobody messes with me about the science,” Nestle said. “It also makes keeping up with the science easier. I can read studies about food and nutrition pretty quickly and tell right away whether they are likely to be believable.”
Nutrition, of course, is dependent on food, and food is connected to a whole line of studies — biology, physiology, history, agriculture, sociology, economics and, Nestle said, “politics — inseparably.”
“It’s the best way to teach just about any subject,” she said. “Everyone eats, and everyone relates.”
So when she takes the podium in Chautauqua, she hopes audience members relate enough to make food politics a larger part of their lives. As Nestle puts it, she hopes Chautauquans resolve “not only to vote with their forks, but also vote with their votes.”