A Public Health Approach to Our Food System


  • Gregory Zimmerman Lake Superior State University




Food System, Textbook, Public Health


First paragraphs:

Food systems are complex, with many components and many connections. We can view the food system through a variety of lenses: flow of product, flow of money, politics of regulations and policies, food security and social justice, impact on public health, impact on the environment, and more. Descriptions of what constitutes the food system vary across these different approaches. Thus a book titled Introduction to the U.S. Food System is sure to be an ambitious volume, and a thick volume. I was daunted by the idea of reading through such a text. Fortunately, it is a good read.

This book is intended to be the text for an introductory course at the upper-division undergraduate or graduate level. I teach upper-division courses in biology, and the level of complexity would be just right for my students. Each of the 18 chapters provides an overview of one aspect of the food system and includes enough depth to anchor the discussion in concrete examples. The chapters are the right length for daily reading assignments for students or for good pacing for readers not taking a class. Each chapter includes a number of "Perspectives," sidebars that bring in additional information and viewpoints. The editor did a nice job of making sure each chapter was written at a similar level of detail and in a similar voice. That's an especially impressive task with more than 100 authors, including academic researchers, food justice advocates, health-care workers, and others working across the food system. The tone is informative and challenges the status quo without being vehement. Each chapter includes a list of learning objectives, definitions listed to the side throughout the text, a summary, and discussion questions, all of which should help students as they read and think through the information. The graphical layout is uncluttered and appealing. If (though I hope it's "when," not "if") I were to teach an introductory food systems class, I would use this book. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to get up to speed on the various aspects of our food system....


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Author Biography

Gregory Zimmerman, Lake Superior State University

Professor of Biology, Lake Superior State University; 650 West Easterday; Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan 49783 USA.

Gregory Zimmerman is a professor of Biology at Lake Superior State University, where he teaches in the area of ecology, biostats, and epidemiology. His research includes sustainable local communities, food systems, and environmental conservation. He and his family have a small, diverse farm on which they grow produce for the local farmers market, community supported agriculture (CSA) customers, and local restaurants.
Cover of "Introduction to the U.S. Food System"



How to Cite

Zimmerman, G. (2016). A Public Health Approach to Our Food System. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 6(3), 171–173. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2016.063.012