Table is set for the inaugural graduation of food studies minors

Kiara Kashuba working at a food bank

Eight undergraduate students will graduate this spring and summer with a minor in food studies, the first such degrees awarded in the program’s history.

The food studies minor was launched in fall 2016 with a celebratory event on the campus quad featuring pretzels and fresh-pressed apple cider; since then, nearly 60 undergraduates have declared the minor. Program director Stephen Wooten, an international studies professor, attributes the rapid growth of the program to the broad appeal of food studies.

Food studies group photo“Food matters across the board — in social, cultural, political, economic and environmental ways,” he said. “For this reason it makes perfect sense that our new food studies minor appeals to so many students across campus, from such a wide range of majors.”

Many of the declared minors were introduced to the new discipline in Wooten’s introduction to food studies course, ENVS 225, which has filled to a capacity at 150 students each fall. Wooten sees food as “a great uniter.”

“Everyone needs food and everyone has favorite foods and personal food stories to share,” he said. “I love hearing how people from different walks of life talk about their food connections. It’s super gratifying to see our food classes filling up and to see the number of minors growing so quickly. We’ll even have three new food-related Freshmen Interest Groups in the fall.”

Madeline Cuyler is a senior graduating with a major in human physiology and a minor in food studies.

“When I heard about the food studies minor opening I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “I got so much more from the minor than I ever imagined, way beyond nutrition. I felt it added a huge amount of interdisciplinary material to my studies that really expanded my world views after having previously focused on just the sciences during my time here.”

Kiara Kashuba, who will graduate with a degree in planning, public policy and management, won a $300 food studies award at the Undergraduate Research Symposium for her research presentation on student food security at the UO.

“I completed a minor in food studies because it is an intersection of all my interests: protecting the environment, building healthy communities and creating a more socially just world,” she said. “I view food as an avenue through which we can generate major social change, and I hope to apply the knowledge and skills I gain through the food studies minor to combat food insecurity.”

The food studies minor is a 24-credit program that combines classroom and experiential work and is open to all majors. For more information on the degree program, visit https://foodstudies.uoregon.edu/undergraduate-minor-in-food-studies/.