Common book poses questions for healthy eating across America

Allison Mueller

Benjamin Strand/ Winonan

When it came to choosing what the common book should be for the 2014-2015 school year at Winona State University, the committee of faculty and staff wanted to make sure it could relate to the university theme of “Sustainable Futures.”

This year the committee ended up choosing Tracie McMillan’s, “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table.”

In the book, author Tracie McMillan spends a year undercover working various jobs in the food industry and documents her experiences.

She specifically focuses on her ability to support herself as well as trying to eat well. Many Americans face the difficult predicament of wanting to eat well, but do not necessarily have the time or money.

McMillan’s book exposes various problems such as labor, class and affordability and how they are often omitted from discussion about future food and sustainable goals in the U.S.

Assistant professor of English, Ann-Marie Dunbar, said McMillan’s book is a useful model of research for students.

“The book offers an interesting look at solid models of research that also connect with the student experience, as well as discussions of food issues on campus,” Dunbar said.

When it comes to choosing the common book at Winona State, Dunbar said a committee of faculty and staff are given a long list of books, and they must then narrow the list down based on teach-ability and affordability.

Dunbar said the remaining books are researched and read. The committee gets together to voice various opinions and reach a consensus.

Derek Wagner, a communications major, is reading the book for his Writing in Communities class.

“I’m enjoying the book so far. The author’s writing style is quite interesting, and it makes the book enjoyable to read,” Wagner said.

Wagner said his class is using the book to focus on “making the invisible issues visible.”

“I really like how the author went and actually did undercover work in the field first hand as opposed to interviewing people and getting their story. It takes on a different kind of credibility,” Wagner said.

Dunbar said McMillan’s book focuses on the problems while also suggesting solutions.

“Many people wish to eat better, but finding the time, money and effort can be difficult for the working class in this day and age,” Dunbar said.

Wagner said reading this book makes him want to go out and find fresh foods from places like the farmers market.

“It might take a little more effort, but I’m also not the only one benefitting from doing that. It’s just about whether or not you can follow through with it,” said Wagner.