A milestone in the study of nutrition in the U-S is being celebrated here in Central New York. Falk College at Syracuse University begins a 2-day seminar event Friday to honor the founding of its nutrition program 100 years ago. Associate Professor of Nutrition Kay Stearns-Bruening says Americans’ relationship with food was much different back then.
“Most people lived on farms. They all had a garden. So everything was local. It was mostly organic because we didn’t have the pesticides and the chemical fertilizers that we had after World War II. It was a very different food environment.”
The program was founded in 1917, but Stearns-Bruening says nutrition didn’t gain traction as a scientific field until World War II. The University of Minnesota had voluntary test subjects consent to be starved for research. She also says we learned a great deal about prenatal nutrition during a Nazi stranglehold of Holland, the “Dutch hunger winter”, which showed the effects of malnutrition on pregnant women.
One of the biggest problems now, in first-world countries, is obesity. She says it’s less from overindulgence than it is limited access to fresh and unprocessed foods.
“You know, a lot of people do, once they understand, try to make changes if it’s possible for them. Part of it is, do you have the resources to make those healthy choices? How do we change the food system so those decisions are available to everyone across the economic spectrum.”
Stearns-Bruening says the situation is improving, with more awareness, and with fruits and vegetables increasingly part of the WIC and SNAP food assistance programs.
“I’m very encouraged that many of these things are being effective. It takes a long time to reverse obesity. It’s a condition that’s better prevented than treated. So, it will take a long time to see the fruits of this. But the positive changes and outcomes I’m seeing, even at the local level, I think are very encouraging.”
Falk College’s 100 years of nutrition event includes a series of guest lecturers and seminars Saturday on nutrition and diet-science topics. The event is open for walk-up registration at the college. Information is at Falk.SYR.EDU.