When thinking about problems that exist in academia, it is perhaps counter-intuitive to think that food could be considered one such problem. This is because we tend to think about academia as an entirely intellectual activity. Our studies, in other words, are primarily defined by our intellectual labor as opposed to our physical labor. That is to say, food is associated with the physical dimension of the individuals. However, we all know that this is a false account and why such importance is given to the physical fitness of students. In other words, certainly, if we think about academia as the education system in general, this is not a counter-intuitive claim. There is often discourse in the media about the poor quality of food that young students at the primary and high school levels eat, for example, in the cafeterias. Part of our intellectual growth is also our physical growth, or, as the old saying goes “sound body equals sound mind.”
When food becomes a problem in the academic setting, this means that there is a sense in which there is a concern with the physical well-being of students. The student spends much of his or her day in the school setting. In this sense, the school is not only an environment of intellectual activity, a place where we can say that students are only there so that they are to learn. Rather, the education system needs to be thought of as type of secondary home environment, a parallel structure to our lives with our families. For this reason, many of the characteristics that we can consider to be important for the family home, I would suggest, should also be thought of as important for the school or academic “home.”
In our home lives, much of our customs and practices are based around food. Consider, for example, the time that is spent preparing a meal with other family members. Also, consider, the time that we spend eating dinner together. Food is also about these close relationships.
Now, in the academic context, such relationships are not so important. For example, this part of food is not crucial because students spend most of their time together in any case. Furthermore, clearly, students are there to learn and they are not at school, for example, to cook meals together. However, the importance of food in the academic setting still exists and this is because of the promotion of health.
In other words, I would like to consider the hypothesis and explore it that one of the main problems of academia is an emphasis on mental strength as opposed to physical health. I think this represents, from my own personal experience, an incorrect account of how we human beings actually exist. It makes a false dichotomy between mind and body.
The importance of the issue of food as an academic problem is that we are promoting hypocrisy, for example, by allowing poor quality foods in the academic setting, such as in high schools. The academic system demands from the students academic excellence. At the same time, however, we hear many stories about schools signing business deals with companies such as Coca Cola or other junk foods so that these schools will only use their products. Here, there is a great hypocrisy on the part of the school system. The root of this hypocrisy, I would argue, is not only greed and the attempt to make money from the education system, but also a failure to understand what the human being is and how the human being learns. In other words, I think that the problem of food can introduce some of the most important issues in current academy, from the distinction between the academy as a place of learning or as a profit-producing instrument, to the health of the human being on both physical and mental levels.