Yale Peabody Museum hosts hands-on exhibition on ‘Big Food’

Visitors to the newest exhibition at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History will have an opportunity to investigate our origins as hunter-gatherers, explore an interactive timeline on the history of food, and identify popular processed foods by only their ingredients.

“Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating” opens on Feb. 11 and runs through Dec. 2. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Peabody, the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) at the Yale School of Public Health, and the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

“Museum exhibitions provide powerful experiences, especially when interactive components and stunning visuals involve visitors actively in their own learning,” said Derek Briggs, director of the Yale Peabody Museum. “With the ‘Big Food’ show we want to use the museum experience to enable visitors to understand the complex factors, risks, and consequences involved in our food choices.”

The opening celebration, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb 11, will feature family-oriented activities and displays by local food- and health-related organizations to promote healthy life choices, physical fitness, and food system sustainability. Families can enjoy a puppet show and crafts; children can challenge themselves in a physical activity scavenger hunt; and adults can try out a Zumba class.

“We want ‘Big Food’ to be a catalyst for change. At the end of the exhibition, we ask all visitors to make a commitment for themselves, their families, and their community,” said Yale Professor Jeannette Ickovics, curator of the exhibition and director of CARE. “We want visitors to leave the exhibition feeling educated, energized, and empowered to bring evidence to action.” 

“Big Food” explores the neuroscience of appetite, genetics of obesity, and how food and energy are stored in the body. The exhibition will examine behavioral choice in nutrition and exercise, as well as the influence of social, environmental, and cultural settings.

The exhibition examines societal pressures such as the progressive growth of portion sizes, tackles media influences on food preferences, and considers serious health consequences that have increased the burden of chronic diseases.

“Obesity rates are increasingly high due in part to the fact that our environment promotes excess food consumption and too little physical activity,” said Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center. “‘Big Food’ takes scientific research on how human biology interacts with the current food environment and translates it into an enlightening, tangible, and fun experience for visitors of all ages.”

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation is the presenting sponsor of the exhibition. “The overall aim of Big Food is in perfect alignment with Anthem’s mission, to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve,” said Eina G. Fishman, MD, MS, CPE, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Chief Medical Officer. “This exhibition gives the public information about obesity and empowers them with the tools to make healthy lifestyle changes.

In addition to support from Anthem, the exhibition is funded by The Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation; General Electric healthymagination; Community Foundation for Greater New Haven; Yale-New Haven Hospital; Yale Schools of Public Health and Medicine; The Anna Fitch Ardenghi Trust, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee; IKEA New Haven; Blue State Coffee; and Chamard Vineyards.

More information is available at the museum's website.