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Food @ MSU: “Our Table”—a bold initiative to engage consumers in food health and safety education

Russ White
Sheril Kirshenbaum, Kirk Heinze

“Michigan State University has launched a new food education initiative that aims to help consumers become better educated about food production and food choices,” says host Kirk Heinze as he welcomes Sheril Kirshenbaum to Greening of the Great Lakes.

Kirshenbaum is helping MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources with the development and roll out of Food @ MSU: “Our Table.” 

“There’s so much misinformation about food—much of it online and from social media.” says Kirshenbaum. “We aim to foster dialogue and listen to consumers to help us all become more informed about where our food comes from and how it impacts our health and our planet.”

Kirshenbaum says “a big piece of what we’re doing is called Our Table. That’s a series of conversations around an actual table – built from refurbished wood from the MSU campus – that are going to take place first on campus and in the Lansing area but then across the state and nation.”

A variety of food-related topics will be discussed by experts and community members. “And listening to people and the questions they have is at the heart of what we’re doing.”

And although the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is spearheading the Food @ MSU initiative, Kirshenbaum stresses that this is really a “Team MSU” effort. Key “internal partners,” include MSU AgBioResearch, MSU Extension, the Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies, the International Studies Program and several other colleges and departments across the campus. 

In addition to her MSU role, Kirshenbaum serves as executive director of Science Debate. She says Science Debate “is a group of citizens across the U.S. who got to talking about why before presidential elections we hadn’t been hearing much about science and technology, especially when research and development are responsible for 50 percent of U.S. economic growth over the past 50 years.

“And all of science and technology are fundamental to how we lead and innovate and grow as a nation and a planet. It’s a simple call for candidates running for president to address science and technology policy issues.”

Science Debate, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, hosts nonpartisan science policy debates between candidates for office, educational events on science and technology topics, media education efforts to improve science policy coverage and other community engagement activities. 

Kirshenbaum is also involved with the University of Texas’ Energy Poll, a public opinion poll related to all aspects of energy consumption and pricing.

“I often tell people I work on energy, and it’s hard to keep them awake,” she quips. “But energy is so vital to our water and our food and to so many pieces of how we live. Every six months we survey the American public on their attitudes and opinions about energy.

“Energy is a topic where the policy lags well behind the science. But then the public lags so far behind the policy that I think most Americans really have no idea that we’re in this phase of energy transition and the landscape is changing.”

Greening of the Great Lakes airs inside MSU Today Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.

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