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Huxley College Professor wins Living Now Book Award

Western’s Gigi Berardi has received an award for her book “FoodWISE”

The front cover of Gigi Berardi’s book, “FoodWISEâ€. 

By Mathew Willoughby

"FoodWISE,” a book written by Western environmental Professor Gigi Berardi, was recognized by the Living Now Book Awards for its guidance on living a better life through sustainable food choices.

The acronym “WISE” stands for “whole, informed, sustainable and experienced,” which guided Berardi as she was organizing the book, she said.

Berardi said her students inspired her to write the book. 

“It was the students who were confused about food and food choices,” Berardi said. “What I wanted to do is try and explain what are the factors in making our choices about food and for people to understand what the implications of those actions were.”

The book touches on many topics, including sustainable agriculture. One of the leading organizations tackling sustainable agriculture is The Land Institute. 

According to their website, The Land Institute is a research organization focused on developing sustainable agricultural practices.

Timothy Crew, director of Ecological Intensification at The Land Institute, said we are not growing food sustainably and are harming local ecosystems.

“Most water bodies in the Midwest are chock-full of algae to the point where you’re not even allowed to swim in lakes and rivers here in Kansas, in August,” Crew said.

Crew advocates for the use of perennial crops, which are more sustainable than annual crops, he said.

Perennial crops are crops that regrow every year and are the dominant vegetation of every land-based ecosystem on the planet, Crew said. These crops help build rich soil for farming, while annual crops can harm the ecosystem.

“When you replace perennial vegetation with annual vegetation ... you open up the system for a huge environmental catastrophe,” Crew said.

Along with sustainable agriculture, “FoodWISE” discusses food beliefs, food psychology and the political economy and history of food production. Berardi said people should be interested in this book because it makes a wide range of complex topics comprehensible.

“Climate truth can just feel like it's just way too big,” she said. “And it's hard to find our entry point in terms of, you know, personal action, but I love that there are three or four or five pages in there on climate change, which is what I would call accessible.”

Amy Shamroe, director of the Living Now Book Awards, said "FoodWISE" is a great choice for anyone who wants to explore sustainable food choices. The awards look for books that change your life, a quality "FoodWISE" displayed, Shamroe said.

“It was a really great book this year and something I think a lot of people would benefit from if they pick it up,” Shamroe said.

Steve Ettlinger, author of “Twinkie, Deconstructed” said, “If you can’t figure out what to eat after reading ‘FoodWISE,’ you might as well just stop eating.”

The book has nine pages filled with positive reviews from journalists, professors, authors and farmers.

Berardi said it was terrific to have received the award and acknowledgment from the Living Now Book Awards.

“You want to be careful which awards competitions you apply for because you want to apply for competitions where the award is meaningful,” Berardi said. “It’s a validation and, you know, you’re an award-winning author and that’s really fun.”

Berardi will be having a virtual book discussion at Village Books in Bellingham on Dec. 10 to discuss the book and bring people together, she said.

“I'm hoping it’ll bring a lot of people together just in the food community,” she said. “[This] event is kind of, like, exemplary of what I’m hoping that the book is going to do.” 

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