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The New Ethics of Food


There is growing public recognition that the issues involved with the global food system – from production to consumption to distribution to waste – pose complex ethical, social, and political challenges that require critical consideration. Climate change, expanded global interdependence and shifts in the urban/rural interface for food systems create vexing ethical questions of justice. The Midwest faces particular challenges. Once a leader in both industrial and food sectors, the Midwest has experienced dramatic downturns in key industries, which have exacerbated problems related to food insecurity. In both the urban and the rural Midwest, vulnerable and underserved populations have endured the most deleterious impacts. The Midwest is also plagued with high levels of water pollution, mostly due to contaminants from agricultural nonpoint-source run-off.

As the breadbasket of America, the Midwest has rich agricultural narrative traditions. These involve distinctive discourses, discursive practices, and ethical perspectives around food and agriculture, so that “food ethics” takes on a regional character. Moreover, the narratives and ethical debates surrounding agriculture and food in the Midwest are shifting in face of pressing global economic, social, and ecological issues. Midwestern cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicago, for example, have been leaders in innovating the food system, from urban gardens to a rapid expansion of food hubs, and there are stories to be told about these efforts and the region’s particular food culture and ethic. The Midwest’s land grant universities and their legacy of involvement with agriculture and food-related issues have a built-in capacity to foster the development of such narratives. Humanities disciplines in particular – with their emphasis on multi-perspective thinking, deep and expansive ethical framing, and commitment to the narratives, stories, and imagination of specific communities – can help guide and facilitate a public humanities process and bring stakeholders together.

To address these issues, the New Ethics of Food project has two big objectives. The first is to link Michigan State and other consortial and community-based partners in a common commitment to research and dialogue around a broadened understanding of the new ethics of food. The second is to reposition the Midwest as a major force in this century’s global, regional, and local food economy and culture, and to demonstrate how the public humanities, broadly construed, can contribute to this work.

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Join the network by creating a profile and reaching out to fellow scholars and practitioners who have already joined. By joining the network, you can share stories about your and your organization’s work, find collaborators, report news, and promote events. As individuals create personal profiles, we can learn about how our community is exploring questions in food ethics, and which questions are receiving more and less attention. Check out the network visualizations to learn more.


The New Ethics of Food project is dedicated to creating space for scholars and practitioners to share stories of success and struggle. These narratives are vital to learning from one another’s experience and advancing food ethics work that does justice to the diverse projects happening on the ground. If you have a story to share, please email us at and we can feature your story here.

Find Collaborators

Check out who is doing what! You can find collaborators by searching region, issues, organizations, activity, and academic subject.

As we add members to the network, we will develop a tree diagram so that you can locate potential collaborators based on the fields that you filled out when setting up your profile. Check back soon for an early version of the diagram.  Or click on link below to find collaborators.

Work significantly engages the following issue(s):

Animal well-being and/or animal rights, Biotechnology, including GMOs, Climate change, Community organizing and development, Diet and nutrition, Economics of food systems, Education, Environment and/or sustainability, Gender, food, and identity, Hunger, Farmer’s markets, Food access, deserts, and/or security, Food justice, Food processing, Food safety, Food sovereignty, Food waste, Labor, Local food, Obesity, Organic food and farming, Policy, Race, food, and identity, Water

Work significantly draws from the following academic subject(s):

Agricultural science, Anthropology, Art, Biochemistry, Biology, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Computer science, Dance, Ecology, Economics, Education, Entomology, Environmental sciences, Environmental studies, Fisheries, Food science, Forestry, Geography, History, Industrial relations, Languages, Law, Literature, Materials science, Medicine, Pediatrics, Philosophy, Physics, Plant sciences, Poetry, Political science, Psychology, Public administration, Public health, Religion, Social work, Sociology, Soil sciences, Theater, Veterinary science, Urban planning, Urban studies, Water resources, Women’s studies, Zoology

Work significantly engages food systems in or near the following city or cities:

Illinois – Chicago, Illinois – Rural or Other, Indiana – Indianapolis, Indiana – Fort Wayne, Indiana – Rural or Other, Iowa – Des Moines, Iowa – Rural or Other, Michigan – Detroit, Michigan – Grand Rapids, Michigan – Rural or Other, Minnesota – Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota – Rural or Other, Ohio – Columbus, Ohio – Cleveland, Ohio – Cincinnati, Ohio- Toledo, Ohio – Rural or Other, Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Rural or Other, Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin – Rural or Other,

Work activities commonly take the following form(s):

Agricultural extension, Activism, Advocacy, Arts, Books, Community organizing, Community engagement, Consulting, Farming, Food distribution, Food production, Food preparation, Media and journalism, Policymaking, Public presentations, Research articles, Teaching



Find Research Gaps

As we add members to the network, we will develop several chord diagrams so that you can explore what research areas and research questions are receiving the most attention by members of the network. This will also help identity research areas and questions that deserve more attention than they currently receive.

You can find collaborators by searching region, issues, organizations, activity, and academic subject.  Check out who is doing what.