Food Studies: Matter, Meaning, Movement

Astride Toh

Image of the book cover which depicts a pineapple merging with a fish in the center.

Szanto, D., Di Battista, A. , & Knezevic, I. (Eds.). (2018). Food studies: Matter, meaning, movement. Food Studies Press.

Reviewed by: Astride Toh, Lehman College


Food Studies: Matter, Meaning, Movement offers a detailed anthology on the narratives about food consumed in different cultures, social settings, politics, and developing hierarchies. It incorporates recipes, reports, and creative pieces written by students and educators. Since it is an anthology, there are various authors whose names surpass twenty. The editors who compiled this resource are David Szanto, Amanda Di Battista, and Irena Knezevic. The aim of Food Studies is to provide research on how food impacts an individual and society. This broad thesis required a lot of collaboration among writers and artists around the globe. As a result, the book is dense with over ten topics, but it is readable and relatable. This source is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).


Content: In the introduction, the author acknowledges a portion of their readers who are not dieticians or nutritionists by deciphering the question “What is Food?” The introduction eases readers in by explaining how food is woven into the complex web of topics created in society.

Structure, Organization, & Technical: Throughout the book, each topic related to food is examined through a creative piece, perspective, and case study. Within these subtitles are subheadings, defined words, learning outcomes, discussion questions, and references for additional information which enable a general audience to follow along with the context.

Instead of having long blocks of text, the relevant information is organized into subheadings. Also, bolded words have their definition appear when you hover over them. The creative writings include artist statements that reveal the inspirations and situations that inspired their piece. The perspectives are essentially the lessons surrounding the section. The perspectives come with learning objectives that give a gist of what you can expect to learn. The case studies demonstrate specific examples of how the lesson from the perspective is related to a group of people. Within the cases are learning outcomes, discussions, questions, and exercises. Since they are the end of a topic, these materials solidify what a reader learned.

Images & Interactive Features: The book also has several features to enhance users’ study sessions. The first is a hover-over effect that defines key terms. The words that have this feature are differentiated by their bolded fonts and dotted underlines. This feature limits the time that could be spent looking up the word or searching it in the glossary. Some images and videos showcase dishes and recipes. Seeing just a picture can trigger the memory of what a student read about it, while looking at a video gives the brain more information to recall this memory. If one’s memory does not retain audio information, then it could retain the visual information presented. If not the visual information presented, then the sentiments ignited by the video can be a point of reference for the brain. The pictures and video are high quality even though some look like they were taken on a smartphone.

Speaking of experience, some creative pieces also come with an audio recording. A creative piece hits differently when authors read their work, so adding this feature gives readers like me a surreal and lasting recall memory of the creative work.

Social Justice & Equity: To meet its goal of providing research on how food impacts an individual and society, this book managed to include an array of narratives. To do this, the author asked for input from students, educators, and artists across every continent. At the beginning of Food Studies, the author gives clear examples as to how the identity of a person coupled with their geographical location will impact their relationship with food. The editors here clearly tried to not only represent but recognize other narratives.

Additionally, within the table of contents, there is a section titled “Adopting This Book” which states the author’s mission of further expanding their study on food politics and the diets consumed within a variety of communities. They assure readers that though they tried their best to cover the dense topics related to food studies, its range “is always growing.” This notice reminded me that the content of a textbook is not written in stone. There is always room for improvement as with any product.

Accessibility: From the front cover, Food Studies shows consideration of the user experience through the incorporation of two sections called “How to use This Book”, and “Adopting This Book.” In “How to Use This Book,” the author minimizes users’ digital literacy gaps by providing readers with tutorials on how to navigate the book, report typos, or provide recommendations to increase accessibility, and how to use the glossary. The section also details how to access Food Studies in offline formats for those who have spotty wifi. The text comes in print, PDF EPUB, HTML, and other editable files that are not specified. The online text is also compatible with screen readers which is cool that they manage to implement this feature. The editors also linked to a contact form for readers who want a file different from what is already offered. They also included instructions on how to inform them if a reader plans to use their lessons and clarified what OER’S are under the section, “Adopting This Book.”

If that was not enough, they also have an accessibility section in their table of content detailing how the book complies with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Having a section for this purpose enables readers to know instantly how they can accommodate this textbook to their needs.


Supplemental Materials: If this review was meant to be a report, I provide in-depth reporting of all the unique features this OER has to offer. Being that it is not, I will focus on the supplemental materials that stood out the most to me.

Before the footer, there is a section divided into two columns. The left side is further divided into rows with the top titled “License” and the bottom titled “Digital Object Identifier”. The right side is titled “Share This Book”. The text under License explains the book is “licensed under an Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.” This term is hyperlinked to the creative commons site where its definition and significance are broken down into the 5 OERs. The Digital object identifier, on the other hand, is a link to the exact page a reader is on. This is a great feature because it enables a professor or student to directly send someone to the page they should be on. No more flipping through pages and saying “I can’t find it”. Yet, wait, there are more ways to share. Under the Share, This Book section is a link to Twitter. Once you click the Twitter bird, you are taken to the social media site with an already written post for you to share that states “Check out this great book on Pressbooks. via @pressbooks.” This feature swiftly extends access to those who do not know about OERs. There is no pay or data wall and no need to wait weeks due to restocking issues.

This book also provides a blurb of each writer who contributed a piece which saves time on the reader’s end from having to verify an author. However, if students think the chapter did not live up to its potential, they have an option to provide feedback the editors (directions for feedback are explained in “Adopting This Book” section).

Overall Review

Due to its user-friendly features, this book is great for anyone who wants to start studying the significance of food in society, such as its production, problems, and influences. However, even professionals can benefit from this book because it is detailed and full of technical terms. Besides its academic level, the OER’s accessible features also expand the scope of who has access to the knowledge it contains. Through the cohesive organization, different formats, incorporation of screen readers, and enabling various ways for readers to update the content and communicate with the editors,  a large percentage of the general population, even those outside of it can use this resource.

Evidently, a lot of work was put into the making of Food Studies. From coordinating with global contributors to revisions and incorporating interactive features this OER is impressive. However, there is so much about it that I could not review due to its density. Therefore, I highly recommend checking out this resource for yourself to see what you are missing out on. Maybe you can learn something new about your diet and lifestyle.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Evaluating OER for Social Justice Copyright © 2022 by Astride Toh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book