Food studies may be offered in spring

With a proposal submitted to Yale College Dean Mary Miller by a slew of interested faculty and students, a food studies program may be offered in the spring semester, according to three Yale faculty members interviewed.

Following the precedent of similar non-major programs in Energy Studies, Education Studies, and Global Health, professors of food and sustainability have gotten together to propose a parallel program that focuses on the intersection of food and sustainability, said Maria Trumpler GRD ’92, professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. While a food and agriculture concentration already exists for environmental studies majors, this new program would allow students of any major to pursue the area. Trumpler, Director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project Mark Bomford and history professor Paul Freedman said they expect the program will start in the spring, pending approval from Dean’s Standing Committee on Majors.

“In the past few years, students and professors have expressed interest in more study opportunities for food sustainability, and we’re responding to the demands they have,” Bomford said.

The program would require the completion of certain food and sustainability courses, bring guest speakers to campus, and require students to complete a sustainable food-related internship, said Trumpler, who is spearheading the initiative. She said she expects around twelve students in the initial class and will reevaluate program size after the first year. Currently, there are around five to ten professors working with Trumpler to help gain approval for the program, Bomford said.

Trumpler said the idea of a food studies initiative had long been discussed among faculty with interests in food and sustainability, but creating a major and associated department did not seem feasible. The University created guidelines last spring for establishing non-major academic programs, and Trumpler said they will make the process for the program more efficient.

Bomford said although the food concentration within the environmental studies program exists, humanities and social science majors interested in the area were left without an avenue to pursue their interests.

“Some students seem to be waiting and hoping that a program like this would be approved, so they could jump into it,” he said.

But establishing non-major courses of study has proven to be a lengthy process in the past. According to Yale College Dean Mary Miller, the energy studies program was first proposed to her when she took office in 2009 and only became official last spring.

Professors Paul van Tassel and Maria Piñango, the co-chairs of the Committee on Majors, both said in emails to the News that the committee has not received a proposal for food studies. In order to be approved by the Committee on Majors, non-major courses of study must partner with sources of funding and administrative support. Miller said such programs need to show they are financially sustainable to gain approval from the University.

History professor Paul Freedman, whose research focuses on the spice trade and medieval cuisine, said such programs are neither allowed to allowed to hire their own faculty nor ask for funding from the University.

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