Women, Food, and Health (11:193:438)

Spring 2016 Syllabus

Course Description

3 Credits. Women have a complex relationship with food and there are many factors that influence this relationship. In this course students will explore the various aspects of women's relationship with food and the impact on health. Themes that will be addressed include: changing nutrition needs over the lifespan; emotional, societal, and cultural influences on food choice; the role of nutrition in the causation, prevention, and treatment of diseases and health conditions that are prevalent in women of all cultures; historical trends in nutrition and food; marketing food to women; body image and eating disorders; and the link between women, poverty, food, and health.

Course Objectives

  • Introduce students to the concepts of food procurement, preparation, and consumption as a lens through which to view cultural, gender, and societal issues.
  • Help students to understand the role that food has played in various cultures throughout history.
  • Explore the historical role of women as it relates to stereotypes and inequitable treatment with emphasis placed on body size and weight, disordered eating, and body image and acceptance.
  • Help students understand the health and nutrition needs of women throughout the lifecycle.
  • Introduce students to government programs that promote and subsidize food and nutrition.
  • Help students gain an understanding of the effects of food insecurity on various populations.

Required Texts

Counihan, Carole. The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning and Power. Routledge, 1999. ISBN: 978-0415921930

Linda Lewis Alexander, Judith H. LaRosa, Helaine Bader, Susan Garfield. New Dimensions in Women's Health (6th edition). Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2013. ISBN: 978-1449698133

Readings and Other Assignments

Week 1: Why STudy Food?

  • View: TED talk: Jennifer 8. Lee
  • Post to discussion board: Food memories and your relationship with food

Week 2: Why Women and Food?

  • Readings: Counihan, Introduction and chapters 1 and 7
  • Discussion: reaction to readings

Week 3: Roots of Food in History and Culture

  • View: "Soul Food Junkies"
  • Reading: Counihan, chapter 2
  • Discussion: comparing aspects of the movie and the Counihan reading

Week 4: Body Image and Eating Disorders

  • Readings: Counihan, chapters 5 and 6
  • Questions on threaded discussion

Week 5: Health & Nutrition Basics

  • Reading: New Dimensions, chapter 9
  • Quiz on reading

Week 6: Prevention: Cardiovascular Disease & Cancer

  • Reading: New Dimensions, chapter 10
  • Quiz on reading

Week 7: Prevention: Chronic Disease

  • Reading: New Dimensions, chapter 11
  • Quiz on reading

Week 8: Health & Nutrition: Focus on Bone Health

  • Reading: Nutritional Determinants of Bone Health
  • Questions to be answered in threaded discussion


Week 10: USDA Nutrition Guidelines

  • Reading: Americans do not meet federal dietary guidelines
  • Healthfulness of the US Food Supply

Week 11: Government Nutrition Programs

  • Readings: various articles regarding food insecurity and specific government food and nutrition programs (SNAP, WIC, NSLP, et. Al.)

Week 12: Poverty, Food, and Nutrition

  • Readings: WIC fact sheet; facts on women & poverty; various articles on the relationship between poverty, nutrition, and health

Week 13: Emergency Food Providers

  • Readings: Various articles regarding Emergency Food Providers (soup kitchens and food pantries)

Week 14: No readings; work on final project

Week 15: Final Project Due