Timeline: Princeton Studies Food

Ongoing highlights of studying food and food systems at Princeton University. Today’s work is built on efforts of so many who have come before us, and we are so grateful for it.

FEBRUARY 2022: Princeton Studies Food Spring 2022 newsletter is delivered. See it here.

APRIL 2021: More food-related inspiration and opportunities for partnership as Professor Joshua Rabinowitz is named director of “the new branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, an international community of distinguished scientists dedicated to preventing and controlling cancer. The Princeton branch will focus on three main areas: dietary strategies to prevent and treat cancer; how bodies inadvertently support tumor growth and metastasis; and the interplay between a patient’s metabolism, gut microbiome and anti-cancer immune response….’Diet is overlooked therapeutic strategy that can help turn on immune response or work with classical drugs to make them work better,’ said Joshua Rabinowitz, director. Researchers plan to run diet trials that are scientifically rigorous & immediately beneficial to patients.” More here

JANUARY 2021: Another food-related hire: Dr. Allison Carruth joins PU as a professor of American studies and the High Meadows Environmental Institute in a new joint appointment. Carruth’s previous books include Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature of Food (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and, with Amy L. Tigner, Literature and Food Studies (Routledge, 2018). Read more here.

DECEMBER 2020: Professor Andrew Chignell and Professor Tania Lombrozo host the online Food Ethics Psychology conference, featuring Professor Peter Singer, Brock Bastian of Melbourne, Krishnendu Ray of NYU, Jared Piazza of Lancaster, Matthew Ruby of La Trobe, Eric Schwitzgebel of Riverside, Brad Cokelet of Kansas.

SPRING 2020: Professor D. Graham Burnett, with funding from Princeton Studies Food, introduces a seminar, “Eating, Growing, Catching, Knowing: Historical Perspectives on Food, Science, and the Environment” (HIS 497). Description: 

The sourcing, preparation, and consumption of food (and drink) represent essential aspects of human culture, even as these activities have long had massive implications for the planet. Science and technology are deeply implicated in the history of changing diets, and industrialized agriculture has profoundly shaped both human populations and global environmental conditions. This course aims to introduce students to a range of recent writings that take up these problems, with an emphasis on scholarship in history and history of science.

MAY 2020: Princeton Studies Food begins collaboration with Dr. Ron Weiss, MD, of Ethos Health, and brings in Professor Anu Ramaswami, in strategy and refinement of his team’s application for a Rockefeller Foundation Food System Vision Prize: Envisioning Regenerative and Nourishing Food Futures for 2050.

DECEMBER 2019: Scholar Tessa Desmond, associate research scholar in the Program in American Studies, along with Professor Andrew Chignell, Kyle Oskvig, a Ph.D. candidate in classics and Princeton senior Alice Wistar host  “Prescription Vegetable,” a Being Human Festival event at Jammin’ Crepes, 20 Nassau St. The event explores food as an entry point for human connection, and in particular the ways in which “plant-forward” and “place-based” eating can bring health to both individuals and systems of community agriculture. The dinner, in partnership with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey and sourced by ingredients from local farmers, featured a keynote lecture by Dr. Ron Weiss, MD, of Ethos Primary Care in Long Valley. 

DECEMBER 2019: In Jersey City, Professor D. Graham Burnett co-hosts a Humanities Council initiative for its Being Human Festival, focusing on community and culture of food, attention and aesthetics, “Serve it Forth.” Description:

Serve It Forth is a workshop and exhibition that examines the intersection of attention and taste. Participants are invited to reconsider fundamental questions about food and sensory experience, while sharing a multi-course meal under heightened conditions of mindful awareness. With each edible item, guests are asked to engage in a new “protocol” of taste, focusing on a new condition of perception. Following the meal, discussions at the tables form shared discoveries that intersect and deviate. This event echoes the writings of the great American food thinker, M.F.K. Fisher, who believed that it is difficult to convey the experience of taste to others, exactly because it is so abstract and ephemeral—but who believed, further, that when the experience of taste is to be shared, it must be narrativized. Telling a personal story of taste is like unearthing a secret. “There must be someone who understands what I mean,” she writes. “Probably everyone does, because of his own secret eatings.”

NOVEMBER 2019: Princeton researchers, led by Professor Anu Ramaswami, receive a $2.5 million federal grant to lead an interdisciplinary effort with academic, city government and nonprofit partners that will develop a scientific process for establishing urban food systems that are less wasteful and environmentally detrimental. More here.

SEPTEMBER 2019: Scholar Tessa Desmond introduces a seminar, “Consuming American: Food, Fiction and Fact” (FRS 191). Description:

This seminar will examine closely five persistent puzzles in the American food system and provide students with an opportunity to brainstorm, discuss, debate, and evaluate possible solutions to issues of food insecurity, food-related disease, farm labor, regulation, and the environment. Through these sets of puzzles and problems students will consider class, race, and gender disparities as well as themes of paternalism and judgment, food as a human right, and concepts of freedom.

AUGUST 2019: The Princeton Studies Food newsletter is delivered. See it here.

SUMMER 2019: The university makes food-related hires, including Andrew Chignell, who has a developing interest in food ethics, and recently co-produced (with Will Starr at Cornell) a Massive Open Online Course on “The Ethics of Eating”;  Anu Ramaswami, who has been working to help make the Minneapolis food system more sustainable and equitable; and Caroline Cheung, whose research focuses on the history of the Roman Empire and draws on material and textual evidence to study the socio-economic history of non-elites under Roman rule and ancient food and agriculture. 

MAY 2019: The first group of Princeton Studies Food students graduates, most having joined in 2016 as a result of taking the “Science, Society & Dinner” course as first-year students.

FEBRUARY 2019: Princeton Studies Food promotes and screens “Leviathan,” a no-words documentary of a commercial seafood boat off the coast of New Bedford, MA, with discussion afterward by Dr. D. Graham Burnett, PU historian of science.

FEBRUARY 2019: Tessa Desmond, research scholar and lecturer in American Studies, introduces a course, American Agrarians, which explores agrarian history, philosophy, theology, and literature and is a partnership with Nate Stucky, director of the Farminary, a 21-acre farm that is part of the Princeton Theological Seminary. 

SEPTEMBER 2018: Weekly planning begins on a conference focusing on water, but was halted for renovations to the hosting conference room. 

JUNE 2018: Reunions panel  reprises food waste conference and includes presentation by Timothy Treuer, co-lead author of the study examining how orange peels revived a Costa Rican forest

MAY 2018: Planning begins for How Low Can You Go, a competitive effort to reduce wasted food to as close to zero as possible among the residential dining halls. Among those providing counsel and support: Professor Debbie Prentice, Professor Mike Celia, Dean Patrick Caddeau.

FEBRUARY 2018: Ripe for the Picking conference, in partnership with WWS, PEI, Andlinger Center and Anthropology, examines wasted food and food waste and its role in climate change.

JUNE 2017: Reunions panel reprises February conference.

MAY 2017: Food and Agriculture Initiative begins, with fall class, Food and Agriculture Initiative, ENV303/EEB303, taught by Prof. Dan Rubenstein, planned; Dining Services is contracted to supply samples of some foods discussed. Others involved include Prof. David Wilcove EEB/PA;  Shana Weber, director of Sustainability; and Smitha Haneef, executive director of Dining Services.

MAY 2017: PSF partners with Labyrinth Books and with the Garden Theatre with books of Science, Society & Dinner displayed in the window, a chef demonstrating the art of ramen noodles at a sidewalk station, and the screening of “Tampopo.”

MARCH 2017: Prof Angela Creager workshop, “Risk on the Table: Food, Health, and Environmental Exposure,” examines the confluence of hazards and concerns that characterize the focus on risk in food, addressing in particular the impact of industrialization on the nature of food—and how it was perceived, and the changing modes of identifying and objectifying dangers, particularly from the sciences of nutrition and toxicology.

FEB 2017: PSF students roll out posters at the conference that begin a reckoning of true costs of food. For this initial run, they examine chickpeas, lentils and beets. The posters are presented at the conference and are displayed in the lobby.

FEB 2017: Changing Climate, Changing Appetites conference, with Woodrow Wilson, Career Services and in partnership with PEI and the Keller Center.

FALL 2017: Princeton Studies Food newsletter is delivered. See it here.

FEB 2016: Food Entrepreneurship symposium, with Career Services event and in partnership with PEI and the Keller Center, draws around 200 for our day of panels and Q&As, our selections of local edibles and the sustainable lunch by Jerry Luz, a chef at Campus Dining.

FEB 2016: Began the first PFS-supported course, Science, Society & Dinner, under the direction of Professor Kelly Caylor and Craig Shelton, the five-star chef, at JW Middle School Teaching Kitchens and with assistance from myriad local businesses and artisans. Video here.

DEC 2015: Established framework for weekly Princeton Studies Food table at Rocky-Mathey with Harriet Flower, head of Mathey.

DEC 2015: Princeton Studies Food partners with Jim Nawn and Fenwick Hospitality Group, owner of Agricola restaurant and Great Road Farm, which will establish and run a bar and a restaurant on the site of the former Dinky Station. Nawn’s group will run logistics for the Science, Society & Dinner course, will host students on field trips to the farm and will open his restaurants and their operations on off-peak hours to students for research and study.

NOV 2015: Science, Society & Dinner receives 98 first-choice applications from students applying for Freshman Seminars for Spring 2016, more than 20 percent of all applications – “remarkable,” according to Clayton Marsh, who oversees the seminars. With only 15 slots, we turned away 83 students. A short Facebook post announcing the course reaches 3,023 people.

SEPT 2015: Rozalie’s Recommendations, a weekday guide to dining on campus, begins publication on Princeton Studies Food website and soon follows on the FB page.

SEPTEMBER 2015: PSF begins weekly meetings

MAY 2015: FRS 138 Science, Society & Dinner, an interdisciplinary ENV and food studies course co-taught by Professor Kelly Caylor and five-star chef Craig Shelton, approved as a freshman seminar and added to the course list for Spring 2016. Course architects: Karla Cook, Craig Shelton, Kelly Caylor and co-lecturers from across campus as well as Rozalie Czesana ’18, who initiated the course with the administration.

MAY 2015: Reunions Panel – “Feeding the Future and the Future of Food,” featuring Professor Kelly Caylor, Tim Searchinger, Gordon Douglas

MAY 2015: Science, Society & Dinner pilot evening pegged on Cinco de Mayo at John Witherspoon Middle School Teaching Kitchens, site for the course. Featured a lecture by postdoc Amy Lerner on Corn, Chiles and Chocolate and hands-on cooking lessons from Chef Craig Shelton that culminate in a communal dinner of homemade tacos, three salsas, slow-roasted chicken mole, seared zucchini with chipotle, hibiscus tea and Mexican hot chocolate three ways.

APRIL 2015: Subscriber mailing list begun for students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members as base for announcements on conferences and as prelude to newsletter development.

MAR 2015: Build publicity in partnership with Lyndon Estes, research scholar, for his twice-monthly lunchtime talks for students pursuing agriculture-related projects.

FEB 2015: The Princeton Studies Food website, FB page and Twitter account launched. Sites gather and publicize relevant research, partnerships, events, stories from Spoon University-Princeton, student club information, alumni news and mentorship possibilities, news items and links to programs elsewhere.

FEB 2015: Public launch of Princeton Studies Food, Frist Campus Center.

FEB 2015: Professor Kelly Caylor, CEE and head of the ENV certificate program of the Princeton Environmental Institute, joins Princeton Studies Food.

FEB 2015: Lyndon Estes, research scholar, joins Princeton Studies Food, and we begin discussions of on-campus agriculture and feasibility of such projects.

JAN 2015: Stipend authorized for first hire: Karla Cook, a co-founder of Princeton Studies Food, longtime journalist, former restaurant critic for The New York Times, editor of The Food Times, nonprofit founder and community organizer, as coordinator and connector for the nascent group.

DEC 2014: Princeton on the Plate, a Spoon University panel discussion on how food builds community across disparate and diverse groups, features farmer Jess Niederer of Chickadee Creek Farm; Raoul Momo of Terra Momo Restaurant Group and PU’s Smitha Haneef; co-sponsored by Princeton Studies Food.

OCT 2014: Systemic Risk in Global Agriculture, a Princeton-Columbia Joint Conference sponsored by the Global Systemic Risk research community of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and under the direction of Professor Miguel Centeno, brings Tim Searchinger, Steve Pacala, Rob Socolow, plus scholars from within and outside the University to examine uncertainties in the complex and dynamic system of agriculture – and in the interdependent complex systems it requires and affects.

OCT 2014: Princeton Studies Food conference, funded by Gordon Douglas MD ’55 and Sheila Mahoney S’55 and led by Tim Searchinger, draws a standing-room-only crowd for presentations on food-related research under way at the University.

2014: Outreach was begun by the Systemic Risk team to Dining Services in hopes of determining the water footprint of beef served in the residential college dining halls for presentation at October’s Systemic Risk in Global Agriculture conference.

2014: Gordon Douglas and Sheila Mahoney establish fund for two conferences and educational food work, under the direction of Tim Searchinger and postdoc Amy Lerner. Other team members include Rozalie Czesana ’18, representing Spoon University-Princeton and Anthony Shu ’18, also representing Spoon, and Karla Cook.

2014: Gordon Douglas and Sheila Mahoney give real estate to Princeton University, with the idea of using the trust for some aspect of health.

June 2014: PIIRS group invites Tim Searchinger to participate as co-host on systemic risk conference; as part of that conversation, Karla Cook presents the conference as an opportunity, along with Tim’s upcoming WWS Princeton Studies Food conference sponsored by Gordon Douglas MD ’55 and Sheila Mahoney S’55, to build and root burgeoning interest, both academically and operationally, in the water/food/environment/energy topic inside & outside the university.

May 2014: Karla Cook joins team led by Prof Miguel Centeno of PIIRS to create and host a conference on agriculture and systemic risk along with Columbia University. Video part 1, part 2, part 3.

FEB 2014:  Chris Eisgruber said the University should not be focused on rankings, but should constantly be asking “whether or not, given the resources and opportunities we have here, we are contributing in the best possible way to education and research and the well-being of the world. That’s the question we should always be asking ourselves….“I think the trend of growing inequality in American society and the world is actually the most important right now for defining the set of challenges that we face as an institution, as a university, in the years going forward,” he said. “In circumstances where we’re contending with this kind of inequality and where Princeton will be judged partly by reference to that problem in the world, we have to justify everything we do on the basis of its relationship to the common good. We need to be thinking, as an institution where every student and faculty member who comes onto this campus is blessed by virtue of the opportunities that they have, about how we translate that position into things that matter for the common good.”

2013: Flavor Lab: A Sense of Place on the Plate – coordinated by Karla Cook, a series of 14 dinners for Mathey College freshmen by Chef Craig Shelton, a James Beard award winner, and featuring local, seasonal and organic ingredients. Some pix here.

2011: AlumniCorps Seminar, “Sustainable Food and Public Health,” moderated by Gordon Douglas MD ’55, with panelists David Benzaquen and Nancy Easton, PU alum and Executive Director and Co-Founder of Wellness in the Schools (@wellnessintheschools).

FEB 2011: Op-ed of Tim Searchinger,  How Biofuels Contribute to the Food Crisis, published in the Washington Post

NOV 2010 The Politics of Food and Health CareStafford Little Lecture Fund: Marion Nestle of NYU; David Kessler MD of UC-SF and former commissioner of FDA; and Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet magazine and memoir author, frame the political/policy problems as well as the physiological factors that support cheap and unhealthful food products, reward consolidation and mechanization in the food/agriculture industry and fuel ever-rising costs of treating the diet-related disease epidemics. Coordinated by Karla Cook for Prof Sam Wang. SRO, McCosh 50.

2010: Outreach begins. Princeton AlumniCorps: A focus on Food Fellowships presentation by Gordon Douglas ’55 and Sheila Mahoney S’55, on communicating, outreach and helping to find solutions to the perils of industrial food production.

2009 Feeding a Hot & Hungry Planet: From the web page – a one-day symposium and a two-day conference hosted by PEI and led by Tim Searchinger that seek to explore the scientific, policy and ethical questions presented by the need to greatly boost food production to feed a growing world population while reducing agriculture’s contribution of about 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

2009: Food journalist Karla Cook alerts her colleague NYT science editor David Corcoran to work of Tim Searchinger, whose lecture made points on food/ag contributions to ghg emissions and biofuels legislation that are creating strong incentives to continue deforestation.

2006 Food, Ethics and the Environment: From the web page- “With nearly 1,000 in attendance, this two-day conference brought together industry experts, scientists, local farmers, students and representatives of University dining services to build on existing movements on and off campus to examine food choices.” Speakers included Peter Singer, Eric Schlosser, Marion Nestle, Gary Nabhan, Michael Pollan and Stu Orefice. Sponsored by PEI.

~Karla Cook, co-founder, Princeton Studies Food