Food, Health and Sustainability
The Evergreen State College
Fall, Winter 2008-9

Martha Rosemeyer Lab I 1012 867-6646 e-mail link
Donald Morisato Lab I 3009 867-6026 e-mail link




Fall Syllabus
Note: Food, Health and Sustainability is currently oversubscribed.  If you are registered or waitlisted for this program, you MUST attend the first class meeting on Tuesday morning at 9:00 on September 30, 2008 in SEM 2 C1105 to be officially enrolled.  Decisions on the status of waitlisted students will be made at the end of Tuesday.

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.  In this program, we will primarily be taking a scientific approach to food.  We will also include political, historical and anthropological perspectives to help us understand our relationship to food in the United States.

In fall quarter, we will focus on food quality and sustainability issues in agricultural production.  We will study how different parts of plants have been used as food (vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes).  We will discuss the role of evolution in the domestication of plant and animal species used as food by different human populations. We will consider the genetic principles of plant and animal breeding, and the controversy over genetically modified organisms.  We will also survey microbes, and discuss their involvement in fermentation as well as in food safety.  In the laboratory, we will be examining different parts of plants used as food, studying the reproductive structures of flowers, breeding new varieties of plants, and learning how to detect transgenic DNA sequences.  We will be addressing historical, economic, and political aspects of the current global food crisis throughout the quarter.  In winter, we will focus on different types of foods and chemical changes upon cooking, as well as basic biological molecules (carbohydrates, fats and proteins), nutrition and human health.

Catalog Description

Major areas of study include nutrition, biochemistry, genetics, nutrient cycling and other ecological issues in food science.

Credits: 16

Class Standing: All-level program, with separate CRN numbers for Freshman and Sophomores.

Prerequisites: High school biology and chemistry. This is a science intensive program and is not intended as a survey program. 

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. 

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in the biological fields, including ecological agriculture, genetics, biochemistry, nutrition, chemistry, and agriculture and food policy.  Special Expenses for Fall: $50 for food supplies and field trip expenses




Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Near a Thousand Tables.  ISBN 13 978-0-743-22740-7  

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma.  ISBN 13 978-0-143-03858-0

Marion Nestle, Safe Food.  ISBN 13 978-0-520-24223-4  

Paul Roberts, The End of Food.  ISBN 13 978-0-618-60623-8


Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking.  ISBN 13 978-0-684-80001-1

Scott Freeman, Biological Science.  ISBN 13 978-0-132-24950-8

Wednesday Thursday Friday

9:00-11:00 Sem 2 C1105 Lecture

1:00-4:00 Sem 2 C1107 Lecture and Workshop

9:00-11:00 Sem 2 E1107 Lecture or Workshop

11:00-1:00 Sem 2 D1105 Workshop or Lecture

8:30-5:00 Lab I 1040 & 1050 Laboratory or Field Trip

10:00-12:00 Seminar Sem 2 C3109 (MR) and Sem 2 C3107 (DM)

12:00-2:00 Longhouse Potluck and weekly wrap-up

There will be a required all-day (5am to 9pm) field trip on Friday, November 7 to the Washington Tilth Conference symposium in Bellingham on "Food Safety and Risk Management for Farms."

Important announcement:  We will hold class Monday (November 24) through noon Wednesday (November 26) during Thanksgiving week, although the College officially observes the entire week as a holiday.  Consequently, we will hold evaluation conferences between December 8-12.  Please make travel plans accordingly for Thanksgiving Week and do not plan on leaving for winter break before December 11.


Week 1 Assignment:
In preparation for lecture and workshop, please read Chapters 1-2 in Freeman, Biological Science.  For seminar on Friday, please read and be prepared to discuss Fernandez-Armesto's Near a Thousand Tables.