Modern-day agriculture has been successful in many ways, reducing hunger, malnutrition, and sparking innovative technologies. At the same time, it has had negative impacts on the planet and all of its inhabitants--polluting and depleting resources necessary for maintaining life and contributing to numerous diet-related diseases, which include 4 of the 6 leading causes of death in this country. By making different choices, we can shift away from a toxic food system and create something more beautiful, something healthy for our bodies and this planet. I will discuss some of the events that helped shape our modern-day food system, from evolutionary adaptations and psychological preferences to public policies. Some topics include innate preferences for variety, sugar, and fat; food addiction; how our social and political environment impacts food choices; and how disconnected we have become from our food and the land on which it is grown (based on Ecopsychology). When we become disconnected from our food, from the earth that sustains and nurtures us, we devalue our bodies, each other, and the planet. Therefore, I plan to propose some solutions, which involve reconnecting with the land—putting a new twist on an old ideal. For example, I will describe research aimed at understanding how natural experiences impact psychological and physical wellbeing, and how foraging, gardening, and reconnecting with nature can shift consciousness and transform our food system.
I received a joint Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and cognitive science from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 2006. After a 1-year post-doctoral position there, I accepted a tenure-track faculty position at California State University, Northridge. In 2009, 3 of my colleagues and I were awarded a $3 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health to study factors that influence food choices. I work with some of the leading food experts, including folks at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. In addition, I have given numerous talks on this topic around the country and, recently, to elected officials in here Los Angeles. In November, I was invited to speak about my research findings at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. I also teach a rather lively class called "food and cognition" to university students, and another called "best practices in sustainability," both of which are highly relevant to this talk and super fun.