NYU Steinhardt Department of Nutrition and Food Studies Professor Amy Bentley and University of Turin Visiting Research Scholar Simona Stano have teamed up to direct a new conference called Food for Thought: Nourishment, Culture, Meaning.
“One of our main goals of the conference is to enhance the cultural study of food,” said Stano, who, with Bentley’s mentorship, is spending one year at NYU Steinhardt conducting research on food narratives as part of a Marie Curie Global Fellowship.
Stano explains, “We eat because we need food to survive, but we also decide what to eat and what not to eat. People are influenced by social and cultural tastes — there are many dynamics at work that can have an impact on eating habits.”
The conference is a part of a larger research project Stano is conducting exploring the gap between a food’s nutritional value and how myths about that food arise through the media. “For example, many people are concerned about specific nutrients or techniques used in the production of food. But they don’t necessarily know much about them — their ideas can be influenced by communication and social media,” she said.
Stano brings a unique perspective to NYU Steinhardt and Food for Thought having developed the field of food semiotics, or the study of the societal meaning of food and the communication of that meaning.
“Simona is doing really interesting work on food communication and ideas about natural and organic foods which should have importance both in the US and Europe,” Bentley said. “We’re excited about this connection between NYU and the University of Turin — we’re getting paper submissions from scholars in the US and abroad and we think the conference should be an interesting exchange of ideas.”