Joan Dye Gussow, EdD, is Mary Swartz Rose Professor emerita and former chair of the Nutrition Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she has been a long-time analyst and critic of the U.S. food system. In her classic 1978 book The Feeding Web: Issues in Nutritional Ecology, which tracked the environmental hazards of an increasingly globalizing food system, she foreshadowed by several decades the current interest in relocalizing the food supply.
Her subsequent books include The Nutrition Debate (1986), Chicken Little, Tomato Sauce and Agriculture (1991), and This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader (2001), the latter based on the lessons learned from decades of working toward growing her own, Her 2010 book, Growing, Older, is as it’s subtitle suggests, a garden-based collection of “reflections on death, life and vegetables”.
Born in 1928 in Alhambra, California, Gussow grew up in a California landscape dominated by clear skies, orange groves and lines of eucalyptus trees. She graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California in 1950, with a BA (pre-medical) and moved east to New York City. After seven years as a researcher at Time Magazine and five years as a suburban wife and mother, she returned to school to earn an M.Ed and an Ed.D. in Nutrition Education from Columbia’s Teachers College.
Early in her career she managed to scandalize significant portions of her chosen profession by testifying to a Congressional Committee about the poor quality of the foods advertised to children on television; her willingness to tackle difficult topics did not abate during her 40 some years in the field.
During her career she has served in a number of capacities for various public, private, and governmental organizations, including chairing the Boards of the National Gardening Association, the Society for Nutrition Education, the Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation, and Just Food, serving two terms on the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, a term on the FDA's Food Advisory Committee and a term on the National Organic Standards Board.
In addition to her books, she has also produced a variety of articles on food-related topics. Gussow currently lives, writes, and grows organic vegetables on the west bank of the Hudson River. She is at work on a new book based on the complete destruction and miraculous resurrection of her beloved garden. Her tentative title: “Starting Over at 81”.