Starting out in food policy: advice
I get lots of inquiries like this one from readers working at not particularly satisfying jobs. This one came with the subject line: Wanted:
My passions really lie in health and wellness, improving the food industry, and ensuring everyone has equal access to healthy, sustainable foods, and an understanding of nutrition and how to be healthy….I’ve read your book What To Eat, and am currently reading Food Politics…As I also want a career that involves educating people about what they are putting in their bodies, and the complexities of the industry, I would really appreciate any advice you can offer with regards to graduate programs to look into, steps I should be taking, career paths to consider, etc. I am happy to answer any questions you have about my interests or experiences if that’s helpful.
Here’s what I said:
Hi. I don’t know any shortcuts. If you want to be treated like an expert, you have to be an expert. If you want to talk to people about food, learn as much about food, nutrition, physiology, and human behavior as you can. If you want to talk about the food industry, this too will take work–and lots of time, if you want to do this well. You need to figure out where you want to fit into the current system. Do you want personal clients? To work for institutions? To write? To work with community groups? To teach? If so, at what level? One way to do this is to go online and look at lots of agriculture, food, nutrition, public health, and public policy graduate programs. Lots. You will soon figure out which ones sound the most like what you are looking for. Pick the one that feels like the most fun, and go for it! Time will pass. Knowledge will accumulate. Expertise will come. Courage!