The overwhelming interest in food that's blossomed over the past decade hasn't translated into many academic options for undergraduate students: New York University and The New School are the only institutions nationwide offering bachelor's degrees in Food Studies.
But a group of University of Washington faculty, staff members, and students are beginning to explore what it would take to create a food studies curriculum on their campus. More than 30 interested UW community members met last week in conjunction with Food Day programming to discuss possibilities for a food studies major.
Led by Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition, the group contemplated a scholarly path that would include dietary health, environmental science, agribusiness, and food policy. Participants also endorsed instruction in "hands-on skills."
An emphasis on nutrition and practical cooking would distinguish UW's program from the NYU and New School curricula, which stress food culture and culinary history. Graduates of the NYU program have landed jobs as editorial interns, community food-education program managers, and research chefs. Much of last week's discussion was devoted to grappling with what UW students would be prepared to do after completing a food studies course.
"Is this a pre-professional program or a liberal arts program?" one staffer asked.
Drewnowski says that's one of many questions that needs to be answered.
"This is very preliminary, what we're seeing here," he said after the meeting, during which professors talked about syllabi incorporating food safety case studies, gardening, and food journalism. "The question that comes before us now is how do we channel these ideas into a curriculum."
According to Drewnowski, classes covering food topics are extraordinarily popular with students. Artist-in-residence Usha Lee McFarling reported her course on food writing "filled in minutes." "They're so excited about it," McFarling said.
The turnout at the meeting surprised and encouarged Drewnowski.
"I was stunned that so many people wanted to discuss the creation of a curriculum," he said.