Interdisciplinary Food-Related Academic Programs: A 2015 Snapshot of the United States Landscape
Interdisciplinary food-related research and study is a growing field in academia. Each year, more universities add departments, courses, majors, and minors focused on studying food and society and the complexities of growing, processing, distributing, accessing, and consuming food. In this commentary, we present our exploratory findings about interdisciplinary food-related academic programs, including food studies and food systems programs in the United States. This cross-sectional research developed a snapshot of the 2015 landscape of interdisciplinary food-related academic programs, provided a preliminary examination of their educational offerings, and will inform future research opportunities. In this formative study, we found 82 interdisciplinary food-related undergraduate programs focused on food. Nineteen program majors, minors, or concentrations had a core disciplinary focus on sustainable agriculture. “Food studies” and “food systems” were the primary focus of 15 undergraduate programs. We found 58 interdisciplinary food-related graduate programs and extracted information on their course offerings. Organizing courses into nine course categories, 78 percent of the programs offered courses in two to five categories, and 22 percent offered courses in six to eight categories. Few courses integrated material from multiple disciplines into a single course, suggesting that these interdisciplinary programs stemmed from traditional academic silos. Based on this preliminary work, we propose to further investigate the interdisciplinary nature of food-related academic programs, map their growth trajectory, and solicit feedback from faculty and administrators about their challenges in establishing and maintaining these programs. In future research, we are also interested in exploring job options for graduates of food-related academic programs to inform recruitment strategies and courses of study.
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