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Month: August 2009

Student Organizations Invited to Participate!

Student organizations are encouraged to participate in Go Big Read by participating in events and discussions, or by planning their own. Please contact the project office for marketing materials, discussion tool kit, and any other support you need (

A number of student organizations on campus already have an active interest in the issues discussed in In Defense of Food:

  • Slow Food UW was the subject of a short article in the Daily Cardinal. The group’s goals are to raise awareness about issues in food systems, sustainability and labor issues. The group offers students an opportunity to learn where their food comes from, with cooking workshops, dinners and movies among many other activities.
  • Students for Sustainable Agriculture F.H. King Student Farm hosts weekly Harvest Handouts, a program “developed to give students access to healthy, locally grown organic produce. Every Friday, we set up a farm stand on Library Mall and give away our produce to UW-Madison students for free. Harvest Handouts runs like a farmers market in that you bring your own bag, and let us know which veggies you’d like. We’ll inform you on how to cook with them and prepare them if you are unsure. Handouts usually run from mid-June to mid-October.”
  • Other organizations can participate as readers; you need not have food issues as your primary focus!

Is your organization planning to participate? Let us know!

Sarah McDaniel
Go Big Read

Tomahawk, WI Book Club Participates in Go Big Read

This week, we were contacted by the Tomahawk, Wisconsin Book Club, who after learning about Go Big Read, decided to devote their summer reading selections to books about food, including In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

“We discovered that we have members who grow at least a portion of their yearly food supply in their gardens. Others frequent area farmer’s markets and pick-your-own-fields and orchards. Hunting and fishing are also used to supplement ‘store-bought’ meat. In our discussions, some of us remembered growing up on farms, where meals were planned around the harvest. With that background we enhanced our knowledge by learning about the politics involved in our nation’s (world’s) food supply. The energy used in delivering food to far flung places was another discussion topic. At our annual summer picnic we shared a meal of locally grown foods.”

I’m so glad that the reach of Go Big Read is extending beyond the University and Madison to the boundaries of the state. It’s also very interesting to hear how local, Wisconsin perspectives are shaping peoples’ approaches to the ideas in the book. Thanks, Tomahawk Book Club, and we’re looking forward to hearing about other, similar groups!

Sarah McDaniel, Go Big Read

Aug. 23-29: National Community Gardening Week

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared August 23rd-29th to be “National Community Gardening Week“!
“Community gardens provide numerous benefits including opportunities for local food production, resource conservation, and neighborhood beautification,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“But they also promote family and community interaction and enhance opportunities to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Each of these benefits is something we can and should strive for.”
Books, documents & theses:

What do UW experts say about food and health?

Much of the focus of Pollan’s writing is on the effect of the “Western Diet” on our health. His is not a new concern; many of UW’s faculty and staff in the health sciences have been researching this subject in recent years. If you’d like to know what some of our own “home grown” experts are saying, one resource is the Innovations in Medical Education (IME) Video Library, provided by the School of Medicine and Public Health. The IME Video Library is a collection of free, high quality videos of educational events that have taken place at the Health Sciences Learning Center.

Past presenters have spoken on topics such as “Enhancing Nutrition in our Schools,” “The Truth About Diets,” and “Local Food Systems, Nutrition, and Public Health,” and have included some of Pollan’s influences, such as Marion Nestle and Walter Willett.

We’ve collected these lectures into one place, on our Go Big Read channel. Take a look, at

Share photos on Flickr! Submit pictures with “In Defense of Food” scenes.

One of the many benefits of a common book program is the community that is formed by the mere act of lots of people all reading the same book. We have an opportunity to share images of that act using Flickr. Go ahead and take a picture of yourself, your family, your book club, your class – whatever scene might include people with this year’s common book, In Defense of Food. We’ve created a group in Flickr called Go Big Read. Join the group and add your photo to the group pool. The end result: a wonderful depiction of the book being read in all kinds of settings by all kinds of people.

I recently took In Defense of Food on my vacation in Yosemite. The small, light-weight book fit perfectly in my backpack and I read it by headlamp in the tent every night. As one of my tent-mates said to me, “was the last thing I heard last night really you telling me that butter is better than margarine?” 🙂

I thought to myself during the week, wouldn’t it be great if we could capture all the various places people are reading this book and share that? So I had my picture taken on top of Sentinel Dome to provide a spectacular vista as background for my Yosemite vacation book choice. I wonder what other scenes of reading this book will emerge…

Therefore, I’m sending out the call to everyone participating in this program: take a picture with the book, load it to Flickr and join the Go Big Read group: If you don’t use Flickr and still want to participate, email your photo to:

Wanted: Volunteer Book Discussion Leaders

We’re seeking staff and student volunteers to help the UW’s Common Book Project have a good first year. The Book Discussion Planning Committee of Go Big Read is putting together a roster of trained volunteers to facilitate small group book discussions around campus and out in the community. You don’t need to have any prior experience or particular expertise to volunteer, just a willingness to get involved in helping out with the Chancellor’s new community-building initiative.

Facilitated discussions of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food are an important part of the year-long program that will help build momentum and will give students, staff, and faculty an opportunity to get together to talk about a common subject. And for volunteer facilitators, this will be an opportunity for some great experience — and for some fun, too. In terms of time commitment, you may choose to facilitate just one discussion, or several. It will be up to you, depending on your schedule and availability. We only ask that you commit to attending one 1 1/2 hour training session and to leading one small group discussion sometime during the academic year. We’ll also be holding optional quasi-social monthly meetings for our volunteer facilitators so we can discuss any challenges we’ve faced and share our success stories.

Drop me an email if you know you’re interested–or even just think you may be interested–at horning at We have three training sessions scheduled for facilitators in the next few weeks and they’re filling up fast so if you’d like to volunteer, now is the time.

We hope you’ll join us!

–KT Horning

On the Radio: “Michael Pollan on Cooking as a Spectator Sport”

Ken Frazier recommended a related interview that Pollan did on “Fresh Air,” “Michael Pollan on Cooking as a Spectator Sport.”

From the web site description: Pollan “explores America’s obsession with cooking as a spectator sport — and why the rise of cooking shows has coincided with the rise of fast food and prepackaged meals.”

Sarah McDaniel, UW Libraries

The Demise of Cooking?

I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Pollan’s feature article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine this week, “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.” Like many faculty and staff I’ve spoken with about Pollan’s visit, I feel that I am very responsible in my food choices already. I am a member of the proverbial choir that Pollan is preaching too. I prepare all our food at home, and aside from my addiction to Diet Coke, things are pretty wholesome.

Pollan’s feature this week chips away at this vision of ourselves. He looks at the paradox of our cultural obsession with cooking and the decreasing amount of time we spend actually cooking. In particular, he uses the new film Julie/Julia as an opportunity to compare early cooking shows with what we see today on the Food Network. And a parallel decline in actual, home cooking:

“Today the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation (another four minutes cleaning up); that’s less than half the time that we spent cooking and cleaning up when Julia arrived on our television screens. It’s also less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of ‘Top Chef’ or ‘Chopped’ or ‘The Next Food Network Star.’ What this suggests is that a great many Americans are spending considerably more time watching images of cooking on television than they are cooking themselves — an increasingly archaic activity they will tell you they no longer have the time for.”

This piece may be extremely engaging to the multiple audiences of Go Big Read. It will hit home with the folks who already cook at home and with people who encounter cooking mainly through the television. It prompts us to examine the distance between things that are about cooking and actual cooking, and to think about what constitutes cooking today.

Last night, in addition to eating a meal cooked entirely from scratch with ingredients from the farmer’s market last night, I also drank several Diet Cokes and watched a recording of the season finale of “Next Food Network Star.” I knew better, but I couldn’t resist.

Sarah McDaniel, UW Libraries