Beginning next quarter, UCLA will offer a food studies minor to allow students to explore food distribution and access, among other ways food influences science, history and society.
The Undergraduate Council of the Academic Senate approved the interdepartmental minor last Tuesday. The creation of the minor coincides with campus and University of California initiatives that aim to promote campus health and well-being.
Food studies uses the production, sharing and symbolism of food as a lens for understanding individual, social and global issues, according to the proposal submitted for the minor. The curriculum outlined in the proposal includes courses from more than a dozen departments, including art, anthropology and physiological science.
The Senate has approved more than 70 minors in the last 20 years, such as the global health minor and the literature and the environment minor, according to the minor proposal.
Joseph Nagy, an English professor who proposed the minor, said the minor combines several disciplines including sciences and arts with campus services like dining and hospitality.
“Food is very symbolic in what we eat, who we eat with and how we prepare it,” Nagy said. “And our hope is for students to have a renewed appreciation of something they often take for granted.”
Each department can examine the broad intersection of food with different subjects, such as literature, nutrition, sustainability or public policy, said Wendy Slusser, associate vice provost for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative.
Slusser added the minor reflects broader campus efforts towards sustainable health and well-being, such as the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the UC Global Food Initiative. These initiatives promote healthy goals in eating, exercise, mental health and well-being through campus goals and programs. She added faculty and student enthusiasm for these initiatives made it easier to create and gain approval for the minor.
“We captured the energy (from the Healthy Campus Initiative) and created a movement for food studies,” Slusser said.
Nagy said faculty members hope they can establish a teaching kitchen to incorporate practical skills into curriculum for the minor.
Students admitted to the minor must have at least a 2.0 GPA and are required to take at least seven courses comprising at least two lower division courses and four upper division courses, such as an urban planning course on environmentalism.
To fulfill the last requirement, students can participate in an off-campus internship related to ongoing community projects or take a student-directed research course with a food studies faculty adviser.
Jesse Flores, a third-year economics student, helped Nagy research potential faculty and establish networks for the food studies minor. Flores said he hopes the program will help students be more aware of issues surrounding food justice.
“Students can ask how it’s unequally distributed, how it affects other communities and be more aware of where their food is coming from,” Flores said. “Is this food connected to a bigger system and is that system just?”
UCLA also offers a Graduate Certification program in food studies, which is an interdepartmental program that requires four courses. Slusser said the minor will formally offer similar courses for undergraduate students.
Kendra Nyberg, a graduate student in bioengineering and a member of Food & Science at UCLA, said she thinks the minor will be well-received because it is a good opportunity for undergraduate students who are interested in food studies.
“A lot of students are just innately curious about the foods they eat, and the minor is a great way for students to explore that,” Nyberg said.
Students of all majors may apply to the minor beginning Jan. 4, 2016.