For Busy-Bee College Students, Professor Litfin Offers an Alternative Approach

Busyness has become a virtue in western society – a society that demands constant productivity as a means for constant consumption. The lack of “free-time” and an ever-expanding market of distractions discourages the practice of mindfulness, but when it comes to our habits of consumption, particularly of food, the lack of careful contemplation can leave us ignorant to the larger social, ecological, and ethical impacts of our food choices. Even when pressed for time on an unpaid lunch break, the price and nutritional value are relatively easy measures to weigh. These individualistic measures of cost deny the larger systematic relationships that fuel the global food system, and thrive on our inability to pause, reflect, and research what isn’t presented on an FDA required label. An important aspect of Professor Litfin’s teaching style is making time for these deeper contemplations on topics from cocoa sourcing to exercises in empathy and hunger.

However, as Professor Litfin recognizes in her consistent assurances to students who may think the exercises are “silly”, contemplative practices are not a common approach to food. The exercises led by Professor Litfin are accessible only by several layers of privilege to a small group of students: students able to afford tuition and able to attend class against larger economic and social pressures facing the college aged population. The contemplative practices are not the solution to larger problems of the industrial food system, but for us students, it may be a solution to disengagement with our education.

The same pressures that discourage mindful consideration of our food choices can make it difficult for students to fully emotionally and cognitively dissect broad social issues studied in political and environmental sciences. Individualistic measures are again easily available, but the emphasis on grades and achievements for a resume fail to leave space for intellectual maturation necessary to tackle global issues that threaten our planet and population. While contemplative practices may not catch on in grocery store aisles, their role in higher education may be crucial for the development of effective, empathetic, and systems-oriented professionals.

1 thought on “For Busy-Bee College Students, Professor Litfin Offers an Alternative Approach

  1. Carson

    I believe we can also go a step further and look deeper into our food, creating our own contemplative practices, analyzing our food and being realistic about what goes into our bodies. There is a world of information out there about the food system that puts groceries in the grocery stores and items at the farmers market, which we can take and implement every time we choose our meal. Everything we eat uses resources, and because we know how much damage certain foods are doing to the planet, to our bodies, and to others, we can make more informed choices about what we choose in our every day diet.

    I like how there was a relation to empathy in the food world, and the realization that our sole change in anything we choose to do about the food system wont make a great impact. In order to do anything of the sort, there would need to be a global collective action effort unlike any other, but it is possible. It is up to the people who are able to feed themselves and create and profit off of this system to lead the charge in problems like hunger, climate change, health, and more, as they are the ones who have created this system. Doing these contemplative practices begins to mend the connection between humans and our food, as well as which direction we want to take for the sake of all, but there would need to be an extreme amount of participation for anything to happen.


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