"Big Food has really changed our family's life. Our 4-year-old frequently refers to smash your food game and to the tightrope/healthy food game 'If we eat junk, we'll fall and pirañas will get us. If we eat the healthy food we can balance on the tight rope.' " - "Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating" Visitor
Centered around the museums current exhibit, "Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating Food," the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History plans to celebrate the end of summer and the start of the new school year with a big celebration entitled "Summer's Last Roar," Saturday, August 25th from 10 am until 5 pm. The free event will include puppet shows and activities by local health and food-related organizations.
"We want people to understand more about food and about how food affects their health," said Jeannette R. Ickovics, PhD, lead curator of the exhibit.
What is food? Why are we hungry? What about baby's first food? How do we read a food label? These were some of the questions the seven members of the exhibit's curatorial team discussed during the 18 months of preparation. These questions led to the bigger issue about the food we eat, explained Ickovic, specifically "the determinant and the consequences in relation to health."
Ickovics, of Madison, knows about food and it's health effects through her job as a Yale University Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health and as a mother of two boys, ages 10 and 12.
"Food is the thing that beings us all together," said Ikovics. "Whether we are rich or poor or black or white or brown, food is the thing that brings us together."
Although food plays a huge part in all of out lives, Ickovics said, the food we eat, as individuals, families and community members, needs to be looked at in a different way if we want to be healthier and move towards eradicating the growing obesity problem.
This exhibit is different from any other Peabody exhibit. "A lot of our exhibits are very focused on our collection. They're about dinosaurs or animals, things you would expect to see at the Peabody," said Jane Pickering, Yale Peabody Deputy Director and Director of Public Programs and a Guilford resident.
"It was really interesting to go through the process," said Pickering. "Looking at how we could deal with such a complex topic without trivializing any of the issues but still making it interesting enough so people would actually want to visit and would enjoy themselves when they were here."
"...we didn't want people to say 'Oh gosh, this is so terrible,' and just give up and go home," explained Pickering. "We spent a lot of time looking at how can we talk about it without leaving you (the visitor) with a sense of despair."
By all accounts people are enjoying the exhibit. The number of visitors has been recorded at over 65,000 since opening day in February. "Once we began it was so exciting to think about reaching 150 to 200 thousand people, which is something that we don't physically have an opportunity to do," said Ickovics. These numbers she refers to represent the typical number of visitors to the Peabody annually.
Success, concur Ickovics and Pickering, is not measured solely on number of visitors. "There's lots of interaction with people responding to the various different exhibits," adds Pickering. "For us that's one of the measurements of success."
The pure number of exhibit visitors, comments received from thise individuals following their visit and the enthusiasm and energy shown daily within the exhibit walls shows that the message is getting through.
"We can individually make a difference," said Ickovics. "For ourselves, our families and our community there are things that we can do to create and nurture a healthier food environment and to keep healthy and well."