2008-09 Catalog

Decorative graphic

Program Description

Food, Health and Sustainability

Last Updated: 11/25/2008

Fall and Winter quarters

Faculty: Martha Rosemeyer agricultural ecology and food systems, Donald Morisato genetics and molecular biology

Faculty Signature Required: Winter quarter

Major areas of study include nutrition, chemistry of biological molecules, genetics and evolution, nutrient cycling and other ecological issues in food systems, and sustainability.

Class Standing: This all-level program accepts up to 33% freshmen as well as supporting and encouraging those ready for advanced work.

Accepts Winter Enrollment: This program will accept new students who have appropriate background. Contact faculty at Academic Fair or by email. New students should expect to complete some catch-up work during the December break.

Prerequisites: High school biology and chemistry.

What should we eat? What is the difference between conventional and organic foods? Why is there an outcry over genetically modified foods? Why does journalist Michael Pollan call this the American "Age of Nutritionism?"

This program will take a scientific approach to food and cooking. The topics will span a broad range of scale, from ecological agriculture to molecular structure, including sustainable production, the coevolution of humans and food, the connection between diet and health, as well as the transformation of food through the processes of cooking and fermentation. Throughout history, food and cooking have not only been essential for human sustenance, but have played a central role in the economic and cultural life of civilizations. This interdisciplinary exploration of food will take a broad ecological systems approach as it examines the biology and chemistry of food, while also incorporating political, historical and anthropological perspectives.

Students will directly apply major concepts learned in lectures to experiments in the laboratory and kitchen. Field trips will provide opportunities for observing food production and processing in the local community. Program themes will be reinforced in problem-solving workshop sessions and seminar discussions focused on topics addressed by such authors as Michael Pollan, Harold McGee, and Gary Paul Nabhan.

More specifically, we will focus in fall quarter on food quality issues in the production of foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains and fungi. We will explore the biochemistry of food, beginning with basic chemical concepts, before moving on to the structure of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. We will consider the genetic principles of plant and animal breeding, and the role of evolution in the selection of plant and animal species used as food by different human populations.

In winter quarter, we will concentrate on cooking and nutrition. We will study meat, milk, eggs, vegetables and cereal doughs, and examine what happens at a biochemical level during the process of cooking and baking. We will discuss how factors like nutritional content, heavy metal and pesticide contamination, and genetic engineering affect food quality. We will explore how our bodies digest and recover nutrients, and consider the physiological roles of vitamins and antioxidants, as well as the complex relationship between diet, disease and genetics. Finally, we will study the physiology of taste and smell, critical for the appreciation of food.

Credits: 16 per quarter

Enrollment: 48

Books: www.tescbookstore.com

Special Expenses: $50 for food supplies and field trip expenses.

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in the biological fields, including ecological agriculture, genetics, biochemistry, nutrition, chemistry, and agriculture and food policy.

Planning Units: Programs for Freshmen, Environmental Studies, Scientific Inquiry

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 17th, 2008 Winter quarter enrollment details added.
November 25th, 2008 Winter enrollment field utilized.