Changing climate, changing appetites: Conference on Feb 17!

This piece gets at the subject of our one-day food conference coming up on Friday, Feb 17 on campus, Changing Climate, Changing Appetites. More details and registration to come, but please do mark your calendar and plan to stay for the day for panels discussions (heavy on the Q&A!) that explore behavioral science and how we change our appetites, secrets of making these foods delicious and crave-worthy (from land to kitchen), the role of marketing and advertising in the effort and the power and politics of the food/ag sector. There will be a delicious lunch for those registered; sessions will build on each other. The event is open to the public.

With that in mind, please do click through and read this whole piece from the Atlantic – and begin compiling your questions for Feb 17!

From the essay: Large-scale animal agriculture has become a primary driver of climate change. We are eating and producing much more meat than ever before. The human population is on pace to hit 10 billion by the middle of the century; that’s 10 times as many people as there were in 1800. When we find a way to grow delicious red meat in petri dishes, then we can discuss exactly how much is healthy to eat. For now, the only way forward for our species seems to be to consider meat as something closer to a delicacy.

…The most common January undertaking in “new year, new you,” is dietary—shifting the actual molecules that fuel everything we do. Most of us will fail to meaningfully change, and then feel only more inadequate in that failure.

We fail because absurd goals can never be maintained, and because sometimes our own bodies (partly the way we were born, but mostly the way we’ve trained them to demand constant supplies of simple carbohydrates and insulin) make it almost impossible not to fail—to live without feeling deprived and hungry and joyless.

Maybe most important, many people fail when they don’t truly believe in what they’re doing. The gratification of sugar is immediate, and the idea of a paralyzing stroke decades hence is remote. It seems there are more important things to worry about right now.

…Changing the way we eat is a major change. It will involve multiple decisions every day. Presumably our old habits existed for reasons—convenience, enjoyment, availability, cost, marketing, etc. Modifying the habits that these conditions created means hard work and requires dedication to a cause. I’m not convinced that concern for the health of our bodies years in the future is sufficient.

I’m not even sure the promise of modifying our appearances is enough. The neurologist Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning that the key is to avoid the temptation to pursue happiness—like that being sold to us through all of the new-year deals—but to pursue meaning. Piles of research have shown that a sense of purpose is a central to long, healthy life.

There’s purpose to be had in how we eat—in how conscientious we can be, how minimally we can disrupt the world for those that will come after us and those working to produce and procure our food. I think this is a sustainable and worthy resolution for a healthier way to eat, if you’re intent on making one. It works for the mind and body at once, and, most importantly, not just our own.


What’s on your breakfast plate?

Ran across an interesting piece on USDA from Tom Vilsack, the department’s head. From that piece, a quote about breakfast:

USDA researchers have made discoveries that prove eating a protein-rich breakfast increases the brain’s level of dopamine, a chemical that helps reduce food cravings and overeating later in the day. USDA scientists recorded brain electrical activity during the performance of mental arithmetic in children and found that those who ate breakfast were more efficient at solving math problems than those who did not.

If you’re looking to push past mid-morning sluggishness and step lightly on the planet, opt for plant-based protein-rich foods: quinoa, edamame, beans & legumes including peanut butter, wild rice, nuts and also processed items including tofu, tempeh and seitan (more info from Prevention magazine here and here). Eggs and dairy (Greek yogurt) pack a protein punch too.

Save the date: Friday, Feb 17!

DSC05108.JPGWe’re currently planning our third Princeton Studies Food conference for Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 and are using as a blueprint Tim Searchinger’s recent report, Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future (PDF), from the World Resources Institute. We’ll be looking at ways to effect behavioral change, specifically, reducing consumption of industrially produced beef – and what to eat instead.

Each of the participants – panelists and moderator — will speak for 3-5 minutes, and hold to 3-4 slides; the rest of the panel time will be devoted to Q&A. It’s a format we’ve found to be highly engaging and exciting.

Our draft conference agenda could change, but as of now, the panels are roughly:
1. What’s the current situation
2. How to change minds
3. How to facilitate a shift in behavior via supporting systems
4. How to change the menu (lunch & learn!!)
5. How to change policy

Last year’s conference was SRO at Dodds Auditorium; we’re expecting the same level of interest for this gathering as well.

Check back here for updates as they develop.

Keller Center team takes on home cooking

Mei Chai Zheng, graduate student in Electrical Engineering, pitches the Robolution food preparation and cooking device at Demo Day in New York in early August. Click on the photo for more information.

Mei Chai Zheng, graduate student in Electrical Engineering, pitches the Robolution food preparation and cooking device at Demo Day in New York in early August. Click on the photo for more information.

The Keller Center’s eLab Summer Accelerator Program is a 10-week launch pad for student startups that connects teams to fellow entrepreneurs, assigned mentors, and training sessions and workshops. The program culminates with two Demo Days, at which they share their plans with a broad audience. Read more here and here.

Reunions 2016: If you eat, this panel is for you!

Please join us for our Reunions Weekend panel, Princeton Entrepreneurs: Designing the Future for Food, on Friday, May 27, from 10:30 to noon, in Frist Campus Center 302.

The panel – free & open to the public – will be moderated by Tim Searchinger, co-founder of Princeton Studies Food. Gordon Douglas MD ‘55 and co-founder, Princeton Studies Food, will introduce the panel and the panelists and briefly discuss the work of our council.

The panel will be organized around panelists’ actions that are connected to recommendations in Searchinger’s latest World Resources Institute report, “Shifting Diets for a More Sustainable Food Future.”

Click here for more information about Reunions 2016.

Here’s our updated Future for Food panel biographies:

Timothy Searchinger, Princeton Studies Food co-founder, is a research scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School STEP program and a lecturer in the Princeton Environmental Institute. His work combines ecology, agronomy and economics to explore ways of meeting global food needs while reducing climate change and impacts on ecosystems. His academic work is best known for papers exploring the land use and greenhouse gas emissions of bioenergy. He is a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, for which he serves as technical director of “Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A Menu of Solutions to Sustainably Feed More than 9 Billion People by 2050.” Reach him at

Gordon Douglas MD ’55, Princeton Studies Food co-founder, is Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and is director of three biotech companies: Vical, Inc. Novadigm, and Protein Sciences. He was president of the Merck Vaccine Division, responsible for the research, development, manufacturing and marketing of Merck’s vaccine products, from 1989 until 1999. Previously, he was an infectious disease specialist with research interests in respiratory viral infections, vaccines, and antivirals at Weill Cornell Medical College and the University of Rochester School of Medicine. MD, Cornell University Medical College; National Academy of Medicine. Reach him at

David Benzaquen is the founder and CEO of PlantBased Solutions, a mission-driven, marketing and management consulting agency for plant-based consumer packaged product companies. In addition to helping launch and grow plant-based brands, PlantBased Solutions manages a syndicate of angel and venture capital investors interested in plant-based business opportunities. David is an advisor at various food incubators and accelerators, including The Brooklyn FoodWorks and Food-X. He is a contributing writer to the New Food Economy and New Hope Natural Media’s IdeaXchange. Bachelor’s, American University; Master’s, The New School. Reach him at

Reuwai Mount Hanewald ’94, her parents, Pam and Gary Mount (’66) and sister, Tannwen Mount (’98) own and operate Terhune Orchards, where they grow 40 types of fruits and vegetables on 200 acres in Princeton. The farm also includes a bakery, vineyard and winery, greenhouses, pick your own, barn yard, and farm market. Terhune Orchards receives 700,000 visitors a year and is known for its organic and innovative farming and successful marketing practices. She recently returned to the farm full time after 20 years as a science department chair and secondary school teacher at schools in the United States, Central America and West Africa. Reach her at

Alexander Lorestani ’15 is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gelzen. Gelzen is a synthetic biology company that engineers and manufactures proteins for use in food and cosmetic products. Prior to his work at Gelzen, Alexander was an MD/PhD candidate at the Rutgers University-Princeton University Physician-Scientist Training Program. He studied medicine at Rutgers University and microbiology at Princeton University. Alexander’s focus was on infectious diseases, specifically antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Before becoming an MD/PhD candidate, Alex studied cell biology as an undergraduate at Boston College. Alex has a passion for translating discoveries forged through high-quality basic research into tools that can be used to improve the lives of others. Reach him at

Shana Weber is founding director of Princeton’s Office of Sustainability, which opened its doors in 2006. She comes to the sustainability field with a background in ecology, climate science research, teaching and communications. Current research interests periodically take her to the mountains of the American West, but the bulk of her work focuses on helping Princeton University become an exemplar of sustainable practices, campus-as-lab research, and education. Weber also serves as President of the NJ Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, and administrative sponsor for the NE Campus Sustainability Consortium. Reach her at shanaw@Princeton.EDU

Food Entrepreneurship symposium: The videos

Below are links to the complete videos of the Food Entrepreneurship symposium of Feb 19, 2016.See the agenda here and the panelist biographies here.

Innovation in Agriculture

Innovation on the Plate:

Innovation in Food Literacy:

Innovation in Finance:

Future of Food Study:

Dietary shifts for environmental sustainability

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Tim Searchinger

Tim Searchinger

“Creating a Sustainable Food Future (installment 11) shows that for people who consume high amounts of meat and dairy, shifting to diets with a greater share of plant-based foods could significantly reduce agriculture’s pressure on the environment.” Read more at the WRI and download the PDF from the link below. Thanks to author Timothy Searchinger, research scholar, Woodrow Wilson School and the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy and lecturer for Princeton Environmental Institute and World Resources Institute fellow. Don’t miss the Protein Scorecard, which ranks foods from lowest (plant-based foods) to highest impact (beef), as well as the Shift Wheel, which harnesses proven marketing and behavior change strategies to help move billions of people to more sustainable diets.