Amy Bentley: Baby Food and the American Industrial Diet

Amy Bentley, co-sponsored by New Frontiers Seminar Series

January 21, 2016 - 02:00


Professor Amy Bentley, New York University

Baby Food and the American Industrial Diet

Date: Thursday January 21
12pm to 1:30pm

Food consumption is a significant and complex social activity—and what a society chooses to feed its children reveals much about its tastes and ideas regarding health. In her groundbreaking historical research, Amy Bentley explores how the invention of commercial baby food shaped American notions of infancy and influenced the evolution of parental and pediatric care.  Until the late nineteenth century, infants were almost exclusively fed breast milk. But over the course of a few short decades, Americans began feeding their babies formula and solid foods, frequently as early as a few weeks after birth.
By the 1950s, commercial baby food had become emblematic of all things modern in postwar America. Little jars of baby food were thought to resolve a multitude of problems in the domestic sphere: they reduced parental anxieties about nutrition and health; they made caretakers feel empowered; and they offered women entering the workforce an irresistible convenience. But these baby food products laden with sugar, salt, and starch also became a gateway to the industrialized diet that blossomed during this period.
Today, baby food continues to be shaped by medical, commercial, and parenting trends. Baby food producers now contend with health and nutrition problems as well as the rise of alternative food movements. All of this matters because, as the author suggests, it’s during infancy that American palates become acclimated to tastes and textures, including those of highly processed, minimally nutritious, and calorie-dense industrial food products.

Dr. Amy Bentley is an Associate Professor of Food Studies in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University.  She is the author of the award winning book "Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and Industrialization of the American Diet" ( as well as the co-founder of the Experimental Cuisine Collective and the NYU Urban Farm Lab
The Graduate Students' Association at Scarborough, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, and the Office of Vice Principal, Research welcome Dr. Bentley to UTSC for what is sure to be an insightful and engaging seminar.