'Big Food' Exhibit Reveals the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truths About American Food Consumption

The Yale Peabody Museum exhibit poses serious questions about food and health in a fun, interactive way

The United States is one of the wealthiest, smartest, and most motivated countries in the world. Yet Americans can’t seem to put down the double cheeseburger, switch off Paula Deen’s cooking show, and get off the couch. To date, the U.S. is also one of the fattest, unhealthiest nations on the planet.

The Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven, Conn., has decided to address these issues directly in an interactive temporary exhibit called "Big Food: Health, Culture, and the Evolution of Eating." The exhibit, which opened in February and will last until Dec. 2, 2012, challenges guests to evaluate their relationships with food. "We want to change people’s views of food and eating," said exhibit curator Jeannette Ickovics in an article by Courant.com. "We want to give people enough information that they will ask themselves, 'What am I going to do today to change my life?'"

The exhibit begins with visual representation of the amount of food the average American eats, an image that is said to both shock and educate guests. Throughout the exhibit, guests learn about humans’ history as hunter-gatherers, understand how the media influences food choices, and see the grave consequences of food-induced diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

The exhibit addresses very important, heavy issues, but does so in a way that is fun, engaging, and family-friendly. The silly "Smash Your Food" installation, for example, shows guests how much sugar, salt, and fat is in popular foods like chicken nuggets and milkshakes. The goal is to make guests a bit queasy in order to encourage them to make healthier choices.

At the end of the exhibit, guests are challenged to reflect upon their own eating habits and how their lifestyle fits within the larger context of community health and sustainability. The goal is for guests to walk away with a little more knowledge and a lot more awareness of the kinds of food they put into their bodies.