Interdisciplinary Food Studies Minor

Are you passionate about food? The new SDSU minor in Food Studies allows you to pursue your interests and specialize in this exciting and important area of scholarship to examine the interconnected social, political, environmental, and cultural dimensions of food.

What is Food Studies?

Everybody has to eat. Yet food is much more than biological sustenance; it connects us to the earth and other living beings, supports more jobs than any other economic sector, structures our everyday lives, allows us to express our cultures and identities, and impacts our health and wellbeing.

Food is a source of pleasure, income, nostalgia, and community. However, for too many people, it is a major cause of distress and anxiety. Food insecurity, food-related diseases, labor exploitation, environmental degradation, climate change, waste, uneven access to food, animal abuse, and the stigmatization of bodies and eating practices are problems that plague the contemporary food system.

These concerns have spurred tremendous interest in food during the past two decades. Food became the central focus of numerous popular books, films, art performances, and other media. It is in this context, that Food Studies emerged as a rigorous, interdisciplinary, and integrative field in which students examine food from many interrelated perspectives and contexts and develop creative solutions to the ills of the modern food system.

Within food studies, scholars and practitioners ask wide-ranging, pragmatic, and critical questions such as: What is the impact of food on the environment? How can we feed ten billion people? Will we still have fish in oceans in 50 years? What does ethical eating mean? Does food contribute to oppression? What does our food reveal about our identity? What is the relationship between food and place? Who are foodies? How do we decide what to eat? How is food used as a form of expression in art and literature? How does race, class, and gender influence our relationship to food? How can we eat more sustainably? Why are so many people hungry? How does politics influence what we eat? Why do diets fail?

The Food Studies minor provides students with the critical skills and analytical tools needed to answer these questions. It complements many majors, whether in the humanities, arts, business, or social, health, or environmental sciences, and allows students to branch out into other disciplines to expand their knowledge, follow their passion, and specialize in the study of food.

shelf in store with food on it

A Note from the Program Director

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed both the importance and the limitations of our contemporary food system. It began with empty supermarket shelves and the realization that few of us knew where our food came from. Quickly, lines at food pantries across the nation grew and have yet to recede as food insecurity is at its highest level in decades. As early as March 2020, it became clear that people of color were disproportionately exposed to the virus, in part because of their role as essential workers in the food economy. In slaughtering houses, farming fields, packing plants, grocery stores, restaurants, and delivery services, workers — many of whom are immigrants and people of color — are highly vulnerable to COVID-19exposure and less likely to benefit from social protections. Independent restaurants have been struggling to stay afloat and as many as 75 percent of ethnic eateries are expected to disappear in the coming months. The virus itself seems to have originated at the wildland-urban interface where industrial farming is encroaching into wild habitat.

This dark cloud on our food system has prompted action at many scales including federal and state policies such as relief packages for essential workers, vaccination priorities for some food workers, and attempts to raise minimum wages; community-based food pantries, mutual aid societies, gardens, and collective refrigerators; farm and food worker organizing; consumer support for local restaurants and food businesses; and a booming interest in growing food and cooking at home.

Whether these trends will lead to long-lasting change in the food system and the way we eat is too early to tell. What is certain, however, is that much work remains to be done before we can claim our food system to be sustainable and equitable. With a minor in Food Studies, you will gain a better understanding of the significance of food in the human experience and acquire critical and practical skills to begin addressing the sort of issues exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19 and make a difference in the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed in the future.

Pascale Joassart-Marcelli