April Food Events in NYC!

As promised, here is a list of upcoming foodie inspired events happening in NYC. We hope to see you there!

04/01/15 – A Taste of Fifth 2015
04/02/15 – “The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto” with Marc Vetri
04/02/15 – Book Discussion: “Inventing Baby Food” with Amy Bentley
04/02/15 – Book Cooks: A Food Book Series at Berg’n with Max & Eli Sussman authors of “The Classic Recipes for Modern People”
04/07/15 – Five Boroughs Food Talk: Street Food
04/07/15 – “Cookie Love — an Edgy New Take” with Mindy Segal
04/10-11/15 – Gotham on A Plate: Food & NYC
04/10-12/15 – Food Book Fair 2015
04/11/15 – NYC BBQ Cookoff
04/11-12/15 – New York Culinary Experience
04/12/15 – The Bloody Mary Festival – Brooklyn
04/16/15 – “Food Writing and Cookbooks — A Lifelong Love” with Diana Henry and Melissa Clark
04/20/15 – Book Cooks: A Food Book Series at Berg’n with April Bloomfield author of “A Girl and Her Greens”
04/21/15 – “Noshing In New York”: Jake Dell, Mark Federman, Avram Isaac, and Arthur Schwartz with Leonard Lopate
04/23/15 – Genius Recipes from Food52 with Kristen Miglore and Merrill Stubbs
04/24/15 – James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards Dinner
04/25/15 – NYC Chili Cookoff
04/25/15 – Bacon & Beer Classic
04/25-26/15 – 3rd Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo
04/26/15 – Chocolate Fest: A Walk-Around Tasting at the 92nd St Y
04/27/15 – Whisky Guild’s NY Whisky Cruise – Whisky on the Hudson 2015
04/30/15 – An Evening of Practical Magic, a fundraiser for City Harvest

The Food Environment: A Fundamental Cause?

By Jacqui Cotton

The obesity epidemic has been framed and reframed by clinicians, policymakers, and the public: a disease of individual poor eating habits, a consequence of upbringing and family lifestyle, an addiction to food, a medicalized health condition. However, these perspectives ignore the salient impact of that which is external to the individual—the food environment. I believe the obesogenic food environment, is the most compelling reason for the massive increase in the rates of obesity in adults and particularly children in the past 30 years. A publication from the Harvard School of Public Health describes the food environment as lurking silently, and often unnoticed, in the background—“it plays a major role in the food choices people make, even for the most independent-minded consumer.”

I argue that the food environment can be conceptualized as a fundamental cause. It is part of the “social condition that provides access to resources” and it can prevent or promote negative health consequences. The USDA sites the following factors that interact and create the food environment: store/restaurant proximity, food prices, food and nutrition assistance programs, and community characteristics. These factors contribute to an individual’s or a community’s external social condition, access to resources, and subsequently health. The idea has been promoted in other literature, notably in Kelly D. Brownell’s book Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, in which the term “toxic food environment” was coined. Brownell, too, believes that the root of obesity lies in the environment, specifically the social and cultural influences that contribute to over-eating and an over-abundance of food.

The food environment also meets the theoretical criteria of a fundamental cause as promoted by Link & Phelan. First, it can influence multiple disease outcomes, for example cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and potentially psychological conditions. Second, the environment affects disease outcomes through multiple risk factors, for example consumption of high-fat, high-sugar foods and beverages, lack of access to fruits and vegetables, and landscape non-conducive to physical activity. Third, the food environment inherently involves access to resources which may help mitigate consequences of disease, or in the case of the toxic food environment, promote the disease condition. Lastly, the link between the food environment and obesity is reproduced over time despite numerous interventions such as personal diets, exercise regimens, prevention and education programs, and point-of-sale calorie counts, to name a few. Despite modifications to the causal pathway, this fundamental relationship between the food environment and obesity persists.

Although their position focuses on the link between SES and health, Fresse & Lutfey discuss several other metamechanisms that can contribute to what they refer to as an enduring narrative of the roots of health patterns, regardless of time and space. First, they discuss the notion of habitus, as described by Bourdieu, and synthesized by Cockerham as “a cognitive map or set of perceptions that routinely guides and evaluates a person’s choices and options.” In fact, eating has been categorized as an “automatic behavior” by Cohen & Farley, and it falls squarely within the habitus framework: it is quite routine, our choices are usually habitual, and our options are relatively standard within our typical environments. It is very easy—even mindless—

to over-eat or to make poor dietary choices, but the process of resisting food or consciously making healthier decisions is indeed very challenging and a more difficult behavior to maintain. Accordingly, the idea of habitus follows that while it is possible to modify one’s patterns, it is often a difficult and very deliberate process requiring purposive action in spite of external forces. Cockerham further conceptualizes habitus as the interplay between one’s agency and structure, and in this case, a diet that causes obesity is at the intersection of individual food choices which are both limited and reinforced by an obesogenic food environment. Thus, while an individual’s dietary autonomy clearly plays a role as a proximate cause of obesity, I would argue that the fundamental cause, upstream of one’s agency, is the toxic food environment.

Another metamechanism discussed is spillover within social networks, which connect individuals and have the power to impact their health in attitudinal or actionable ways. In the case of the food environment, this mechanism is extremely apt, because individuals in close social proximity to each other are likely to interact with and navigate their environment in similar ways. Families and neighbors are embedded in the same food environments and thus spillover effects (whether positive or negative) are likely to occur. For example, if the food environment includes access to a local farmers’ market, and most neighbors on the block frequent it, this behavior is likely to confer, or spill over, to other families and individuals in the area.

The last metamechanism described is institutional agency, and how the dynamic actions of institutions can play a role in health pathways. In relation to the food environment, I see the food industry as a major institutional player in individual health outcomes. Food advertising and marketing, packaging and labeling, and geographic distribution of food vendors play a crucial role is shaping food environments and thus affect how individuals can and do eat, which ultimately impacts their waistlines and health. There are boundless criticisms of the pervasive, highly influential nature of the food industry and how it strategically impacts individual’s purchasing, consumption, and health patterns. These mechanisms combine to propagate the toxic food environment which fundamentally leads to obesity.

Mailman Moves, Obesity Month & Public Health Week!

Join us as we celebrate National Public Health Week and the kick off to Healthiest Nation 2030. Each day this week, FPOP will encourage healthy living by offering free exercise classes to the Mailman community. Take a break and de-stress with yoga, zumba, hikes, or scavenger hunts – there is something for everyone! FPOP will also distribute nutrient-rich snacks daily between 11:30am – 1pm to make sure that “Mailman Moves” participants are well fueled for the day. We hope to see you there! Mailman Moves Flyer Final

Obesity Month – April 2015

In partnership with the Mailman School and the Obesity Prevention Initiative(OPI)  FPOP is very excited the taking a big role in Obesity Month this April! In addition to FPOP lead initiatives such as Mailman Moves and hosting NYT best selling science author Gary Taubes for a seminar talk, we will be involved with a series of other events and attending many many more!

We would like to share the opportunity to attend an afternoon symposium hosted by OPI taking place on April 16th, please RSVP here! https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1845YkyDTiffp4TywJprO4MVxPozix81xtY9wx8zldCU/viewform

In addition, please find a list of all the amazing events taking place this mont here: http://www.mailman.columbia.edu/academic-departments/select-programs/obesity-prevention-initiative/obesity-prevention-month

We hope to see you all there!


Mailman School of Public Health & Obesity Month


This year at Mailman has been nothing short of inspirational as students joined FPOP for campus wide events such as a screening of the new foodie documentary “Fed Up” and the TEDx Manhattan 2015 Event: Changing The Way We Eat. As we look towards another few months of programming before we all spread ourselves around the globe to gain more skills during our various practicums and internships, we are very happy to say that we are partnering with the Obesity Prevention Initiative (OPI), the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) and the Mailman School to help address the obesity crisis during the month of April.

FPOP will be hosting a week of physical activity from April 6th-10th titled “Mailman Moves” where each day students will have the opportunity to get active and eat healthy in between classes or on a precious day-off. We will also have the wonderful opportunity to host Gary Taubes, a best selling science author and critic of controversial nutrition topics, in April for a seminar lecture and reception (please stay tuned for the final date and location!!!) Finally, we are very honored to have the opportunity to interview our esteemed neighbor from NYU, Dr. Marion Nestle, before her grand round lecture for the CUMC community (hosted April 1st in AA). We will be fielding questions next week to Dr. Nestle so please reach out to us if you have any questions (cu.fpop@gmail.com)

Best and we will see you out there MOOOOVINGGGG in April!


Annual TEDx Manhattan Conference: Changing the Way We Eat

Written by our very own President!  |  Anne M. Valik

“What the fork are you eating?” This question, asked by Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN, was one of many posed during March 7th’s TEDx Manhattan conference, Changing the Way We Eat… and was a valid query, considering the conference’s mission to “spark discussion and spread ideas that can help fix our broken food system.” This year’s conference did all that and more, as such varied minds as Shen Tong, a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and organizer of the democracy movement in 1989 that occupied Tiananmen Square; Stephen Ritz, a South Bronx educator who was just named a Top Ten Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize; and Nikiko Masumoto, a farmer, artist, and creator from California’s Central Valley, took the stage to share their vision for the food system of the future.   It was an inspirational day of intellectual discussion in which the Mailman community was able to take part, as FPOP, SPIM, and SEA joined the conference via live-stream in Mailman Auditorium.

This year’s TEDx Manhattan speakers engaged with three broad themes: Sharing the Vision, Shaping our World, and Lighting the Future. During Sharing the Vision, Danny Meyer highlighted his concept of a food sector guided by “a virtuous cycle of hospitality,” while Anim Steel discussed how a just society should focus on “milk not jails,” and revitalize the dairy industry to give rural communities employment options beyond the criminal justice system. Next, Ali Partovi clarified that the majority of the so-called “Foodie Elite” who buy organic are actually representative of the average American. Partovi’s discourse was followed by an introduction to The Meatrix Relaunched, an impactful take on the truth behind factory farming. The session ended with Dr. Robert Graham reminding us that “a pill for an ill won’t work when it comes to chronic disease,” and with Stefanie Sacks specifying that healthy choices need to be made more accessible, because “we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

During Shaping our World, Marcel Van Ooyen started things off by discussing effective ways to scale up local foods in order to avoid mass-produced “focal” (fake-local) produce. Joel Berg then stressed the importance of replacing charity with justice, as “five minutes contacting your elected officials will do more to end hunger in America than five years of serving soup,” while Dana Cowin taught us how the addition of “ugly fruits and vegetables” to the food supply could reduce food waste. Stephen Ritz above all brought the house to its feet with his impassioned plea toward health-minded education, because “it is easier to raise healthy children than fix broken men.” Finally, DJ CAVEM wrapped things up by sharing his motivational, hip hop-infused style of social outreach.

In Lighting the Future, Henry Hargreaves effectively used photography to remind us that during any disaster, the food system is the first one to break. Shen Tong then followed, whose striking opening salvo, “the food movement needs money,” poignantly noted “food is not a problem of food…food is a problem of poverty.” Next, Kendra Kimbirauskas bravely underscored the ills of factory farming noting, “if we raised our dogs and cats the way that animals are raised on factory farms, it would be criminal.” Last but certainly not least, Danielle Nierenberg’s advocacy for women farmers globally, who “make up nearly ½ of the worlds farm labor force but are almost universally ignored as farmers,” revealed an ongoing food system injustice that must be addressed.

As the motivational day concluded, we were treated to Nikiko Masumoto’s “vision” – her concept for the food system of the future. Masumoto’s artful and fervent dream for the creation of an “NFL – National Farming League” reminded the audience of what could beif only the food movement would use its capability to “transform the next generation of farmers.” This creative capstone to a stimulating day left all to ponder the food movement’s next steps. Changing the Way We Eat emphasized both the movement’s challenges and opportunities. Although much remains to be done, change can continue to happen as long as more and more people take action; like Stephen Ritz said, “Now that you know more, I expect you to care more, and now that you care more I expect you to do more – we are Amer-I-Cans!” So let’s get out there and show that we can do more…effort is needed, and the food movement’s future depends on us.

Upcoming March NYC Events


March NYC Food Events

Hey there, FPOP!

Today we are pleased to introduce you the inaugural edition of our new monthy newsletter, the “FPOP NYC Food Events Update!”  A few days before the start of each month, we’ll highlight on our blog a list of all the upcoming NYC-based, food-centric events that we can find – we want to make sure our membership has every opportunity to get involved in the community at large.  Working on an event that we shouldn’t miss?  Feel free to send it to cu.fpop@gmail.com.