The world of food has in some sense bracketed my career. Before and during my studies at UC Berkeley in the 1980s I worked in two Bay Area restaurants, one a tourist trap on San Francisco’s Pier 39 and the other one of the many fine examples of East Bay restaurants that in some sense followed in the footsteps of Chez Panisse and so advanced the food revolution that was taking place at that time. Fast forward twenty years later and I was sitting at the outdoor communal dining table at the American Academy in Rome (I am an Italian historian and a fellow of the Academy) with, in fact, Alice Waters musing about the possibility of starting a food initiative at IU. Combined with the efforts of food studies scholars at IU, that impetus led to the creation of the IU Food Institute (IUFI) in 2015.
Over the past five years the Food Institute has promoted food research and teaching and increased awareness regarding environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues linked to food and food systems. The obvious goal for IUFI in the future is consolidation, and I am engaged in ongoing discussions of how to coordinate Food Institute initiatives with the Sustainable Food Systems Science (SFSS) group, the Critical Food Studies Lab (already housed at IUFI), and the Campus Farm. IUFI was also central to organizing the Emergency Meal Project in summer 2020 and may continue to play a role in addressing food insecurity on campus.