What's on the Food Politics Menu?
Global Food Politics is a course from the Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES) major at ISS. For the last class of the term, the students received a group assignment to plan, shop, and cook an ‘ethical’ meal to bring to class.
Is it possible to create a completely ethical meal?
The course leader, Mindi Schneider, has been developing the course and its activities over the past few years. For this assignment she asked the students to consider six factors when planning the meal: health, environment, social equity, culture, waste, and cost.
When the students presented their meals in class they had to briefly explain the planning, shopping, and cooking process of each dish. The groups had to justify why and from where they bought the ingredients, and what factors played the most important role in the process.
As the students described the process of each meal, it became clear how much time and effort went into creating an ethical. Students considered all factors but it proved difficult to adhere to all ethical aspects of the assignment. Although the thought and creativity that the students showed was quite remarkable.
Finding ethical ingredients
Many students wanted to avoid store brands which led them to search for local or organic markets, other students managed to buy vegetables directly from a farmer. One of the groups also tried to gather leftover food from the market which would have been thrown away.
Meat seemed to be the most difficult ingredient to find from an ethical perspective. Some groups talked to local butchers, but they were not always sure where the meat came from and in what conditions the animals had lived in. As a result, most dishes were either vegetarian or vegan.
All ingredients were not available through farmers and markets. A few ingredients were bought at supermarkets, but the students tried to search for products with Fair Trade or organic labels. Nevertheless, it seemed difficult to trace products from store brands and the students had to take environmental aspects like transportation into account.
Through the whole process the students remained ethically aware of each decision they made. Some students tried to avoid anything that would leave waste and others even minimized electricity use during the cooking process.
The class helped understand the complex issues facing food and farming systems in today's globalized world. Additionally, on an individual level, the class makes people more aware of their own purchasing and cooking decisions. The assignment seemed quite challenging, but it was certainly a memorable class.