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New Course Explores Politics of Food

genovese1Everyone has to eat to live, but how often do you think about the policy and politics behind the food you’re putting in your mouth? A new course called “Food Politics” at Loyola Marymount University does just that by examining politics, culture and the world through the lens of food.

“The way a country views food says a lot about its culture,” said Michael Genovese, political science professor and instructor of the new course. “There are many life lessons found in different cultures, including what people will or will not eat, respect for certain ingredients and the way a family eats a meal together.” Genovese also holds Loyola Chair of Leadership and is director of LMU’s Institute for Leadership Studies.

The one-unit course includes seminar lectures about food studies issues related to agri-business policy and obesity and hunger as well as environmental and sustainability issues. Students will visit restaurants to taste cuisines from around the world and learn about each country’s culture and politics.

“There has been more and more writing and research on food politics,” Genovese said. “It’s exciting to expose students to this field at the ground level. Maybe some of them will make some career choices based on it.”

One of the pivotal issues in food studies is sustainability. Genovese said that the Western diet cannot sustain itself into the future and that health care costs are soaring because of it. The solution, he said, is to create sustainable methods to produce food.

“This will be the fundamental issue in whether or not our children will inherit the world we want them to have,” Genovese said. 

There are 12 students in the course, which is funded by a grant from the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts for community engagement. The idea for the course developed from Genovese’s love of food and passion for politics.

“I’m actually a very good cook,” Genovese said. “So, I took something I love, food, and married it with something I’m passionate about, politics, and I’m hoping that it will benefit and help inform our students.”