Food for thought

Kenneth E. Glander, Professor and DGS, Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Arts and Sciences

Project descriptionStudent on treadmill
This introductory undergraduate course (BAA 120) used a multidisciplinary approach to explore the role of food in primate (including humans) evolution. The goals were: 1) to highlight different types of animal foraging patterns, with an emphasis on non-human primates and humans; 2) discuss the emergence of major dietary changes in evolution and throughout recent history; 3) evaluate the “facts” and “myths” surrounding foods (example: feed a cold and starve a fever), and 4) introduce students to the complex and often subtle ways in which an organism’s diet influences everything from physiology and intelligence to health and genetic differences. The approach used is a diverse perspective including ecological, archaeological, economic, demographic, historic, and cultural. This approach provides a comprehensive view of primate diets and how food has shaped and continues to shaped human cultures and values. Students collected and analyzed their daily food intake, calculated their metabolic rates and predicted the impact of a change in their diet by comparing their current diet with the changed diet. They also evaluated short popular press articles and food myths and discussed articles in class.

Students showed a consistent improvement and comfort level in the written work and foodclass discussions as the semester progressed. Most of the class members said that they now have a different view their own diet and no longer accept any dietary statement without applying some or all of the litmus tests they learned in class.

This project was presented at the 2007 Center for Instructional Technology Showcase as “Food and Technology: You are What You Eat

Project start date: May 26, 2006
Funding awarded: $5,000