Cal Poly researchers study dietary challenges in San Luis Obispo County • Atascadero News


Team aims to create data-driven food policy for California

SAN LUIS OBISPO – An interdisciplinary team of Cal Poly faculty members strive to create a cohesive and coordinated approach to food policy to replace outdated and uncoordinated policies that currently govern food systems and nutrition education.

With the aim of addressing human and environmental health and meeting the challenges of the 21st century food system, including food insecurity, obesity, sustainable food production, etc., the students and research professors collaborated with the SLO Food System Coalition to help organize four round tables. to discuss the challenges of the local food system. The group also launched a food policy working group within the coalition.

This work is an important first step in using research findings to establish actionable policies in collaboration with local food system stakeholders, including farms, businesses, health and food safety advocates. and agricultural workers. These results should provide a new approach to develop and implement a sustainable food policy. Over the next year, the team also plans to complete a review of food policies as they currently exist and seek additional funding through grants related to food, nutrition and agriculture. .

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The project, titled “Eating in the Anthropocene: The Future of Food and Food Policy”, is based on the idea that we live in the days of the Anthropocene, when human beings have had a detectable impact on the planet. By studying dietary systems and behaviors, researchers hope to identify how dietary knowledge and behaviors have changed over time and see what effects they have on the planet, both environmental and human.

The research team includes Dawn Neill of the Department of Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts Studies; Aydin Nazmi from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences; Marilyn Tseng from the Department of Kinesiology and Public Health; Nicholas Babin of the Department of Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences; Richard Volpe from the Agri-Food Department; and Elizabeth Lowham, Acting Dean of Graduate Studies.

“Our country’s food policies are outdated; the Department of Agriculture issued its first dietary guidelines for Americans in 1916, and those initial recommendations have remained largely unchanged, ”said Neill. “There have been so many changes in the production, distribution, availability and human health of food during this time, and this gap has created a barrier to Americans’ ability to eat healthy. “

Working closely with student researchers at Cal Poly, the team will study what people eat and what causes them to eat the way they do. From this data, they hope to construct “food stories” that can link food ideologies and behaviors related to access to food, food insecurity and food consumption, as well as the consequences. human and environmental choices. They will also analyze media archives from the past 125 years to understand how food ideas and guidelines have changed and how effective guidelines have been in advancing nutrition education and sustainable food production.

“Given our university’s excellence in agriculture, food and nutrition, as well as being located in an area with so much food and agricultural production, Cal Poly is uniquely positioned for generate and apply new knowledge and solutions to help solve these problems both locally and globally, ”said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, senior vice president and executive vice president of academic affairs at Cal Poly.

The project is funded by Cal Poly’s Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program, a partnership between academic affairs, research, economic development and higher education (R-EDGE) and academic development. The SRI program has identified proposals from Cal Poly faculty and staff that address issues facing the Central Coast, California, and the world at large, and that emphasize the role of research experiences in undergraduate and graduate students.

For more information on the SRI program, visit


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