“Food for Thought” tackles food insecurity

University of North Carolina Wilmington faculty presented “Food for Thought”, discussing a variety of topics from childhood obesity and food insecurity in the United States to industrial expansion, and eating styles of the Roman Empire.

UNCW instructors from a variety of departments spoke on a range of issues involving eating. Dr. Beverly Foulks McGuire, assistant professor of East Asian Religions, introduced “mindful eating”, an idea related to a Buddhist practice that is now becoming popular in the United States.

The idea of this practice is “…eating slowly, deliberately, in moderation, and ideally in silence,” McGuire said. “Don’t eat for pleasure; eat to keep your body healthy.” Social eating is not common in Buddhist culture.  “The idea is to focus on the food in front of you, and appreciate all of the effort that was put into it,” McGuire said.

“The Loaded Table: Meals as Identity in Ancient Rome” was the title of Dr. Nick Hudson’s talk. Hudson is an assistant professor with the Department of Art and Art History. Hudson spoke on the change of dining traditions that evolved over centuries of Roman society.

According to Hudson, it was not the dining materials that changed but the size of the dishes themselves that did. The poor began using much larger sized bowls and plates while the rich continued using the same utensils as before. “Roman eating is extravagant” Hudson said. The Romans did not endeavor in individual eating; it was a “social setting at almost every meal.”

The rich kept their dishes the same size because they did not wish to share their food with anyone. It became a “symbol of power” for the wealthy Romans as they communicated their individual freedoms.

The lower class Romans started sharing their food and eating from the same dishes in efforts to “get closer with each other,” Hudson said. Hudson concluded his speech with a question about what you do at meals that speaks something of your lifestyle.

The Department of Psychology was represented by Dr. Simone Nguyen, a professor in Developmental Psychology. Nguyen is an expert in the field of cognitive development with an emphasis on children’s cognitive development.

Her presentation, titled “Children’s Reasoning within the Domain of Food,” touched on the number of decisions related to food that adults make each day. The approximate count is 200.

“Children engage in this decision-making as well,” Nguyen said. “Children actually spend a “significant amount of time thinking about food and beverages.”

She went on to say children are receptive to interventions involving food, as long as it is aimed at benefiting them in some way. It is better to emphasize taste and health than to simply tell a child “eat this now.”

 In addition to knowing what to eat, being able to eat is another topic that was introduced. Dr. Jill Waity, assistant professor of sociology, focused on the idea of food insecurity and spatial inequality.

 “Forty-two percent of Americans will be food insecure at some point in their lives,” Waity said.

 Spatial inequality is the “lack of access” to food. For instance, people who live in rural areas with no access to grocery stores are more likely to become food insecure. These issues contribute to hunger in America.

Other topics of the presentation included American agribusiness in the 20th century presented by Dr. Monica R. Gisolfi, how ecosystems are affected by agriculture by Dr. Anthony Snider, and the importance of lipids for animals by Dr. Heather Koopman.