Monday, May 21

Luskin School of Public Affairs offers new food studies grad program

Graduate students can now apply to participate in a food studies certificate program led by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs that will begin in fall.

The graduate program aims to engage students from different fields in a discussion about the obstacles society faces in terms of food, said Alexis Oberlander, project manager of the graduate food studies program. She added she thinks food studies is an interdisciplinary field that can be approached from a variety of perspectives such as public health, law and business.

Oberlander said the program will focus on understanding food, how it’s grown and where it comes from.

Sarah Roth, a graduate student in community health sciences and a food studies researcher, said the Healthy Campus Initiative’s Eat Well component inspired the program. The Healthy Campus Initiative is a campuswide wellness movement that aims to make UCLA the healthiest university in America.

Students admitted to the program will take one core class on urban planning, and three additional courses on food policy and food systems, nutritional sciences and social and cultural aspects of food, according to the school of public affairs’ website.

Michael Roberts, executive director of the Resnik Program for Food Law and Policy, said he thinks students and faculty are increasingly interested in learning about how to distribute food equitably because disparities in food availability for different socioeconomic groups have become strikingly evident.

“Food is not just a means of survival and sustenance,” Roberts said. “It’s also an important part of bringing people together as a community and plays a big role in bringing meaning to life and culture.”

Roberts said he thinks creating the graduate program is the best way to affect change in equitable food distribution.

“I hope the program will be able to develop good ‘food citizens’ in all walks of life,” he said.

Roberts added he thinks today’s society is choosing organic food over processed food.

Roth said she thinks learning to connect people with quality food and encouraging them to change their eating habits is important to public health. She added she thinks there’s a recent increase in interest because more information about food is readily available online.

“We need to understand what nutrition we are providing our bodies and where it comes from, to get people to adopt healthier lifestyles,” Roth said.

Graduate students from all departments can apply to the certificate program. Applications are due Feb. 29 at 5 p.m.

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