UVM looks at food systems curriculum

This past week marked the beginning of a series of public lectures this semester that will explore information involved in establishing a food systems masters program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  The University of Vermont recently received a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help develop a further concentration in food sciences and food systems. This is one way that the USDA is hoping to encourage the growth of local agriculture. The USDA has introduced the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiatives to guide projects pertaining to issues like sustainable agriculture, alternative crops, organic farming and farm energy. One initiative, the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS), was legislated by Congress and authorized by the secretary of agriculture to establish a grants program to address a number of “critical emerging agricultural issues”, the USDA website said. These issues relate to future food production, environmental quality, natural resource management and farm income. Program areas were established to address these issues including food safety, food technology, human nutrition, as well as the viability and competitiveness of small and medium-sized dairy, livestock, crop and other commodity operations, the website said. Priority funding was allocated to proposals that were multi-state, multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary, and those that integrated agricultural research and/or education. Amy Trubek, professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences at UVM, is a key UVM correspondent to the new programs. “By 2010 or 2011, the grant may help students to get a masters or a concentration in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” Trubek said. The food science major at UVM will now be able to focus more on a food systems idea that involves areas from production to consumption. For the University, this means opportunities all year to attend informational lectures to learn about the increasing research involving local food systems. The University of Vermont is working closely with New York University to create an urban-rural dynamic that strengthens the food systems program at UVM. Guests from NYU spoke at UVM this past week regarding past and future projects with USDA research grants. NYU and UVM will be providing weeklong and semester-long course opportunities for students who want to concentrate their education in food systems. Amy Bentley, Associate Professor of Food Studies at NYU, spoke about this growing connection at the informational lecture on Sept. 10. “We are on the cusp of a food revolution,” Bentley said. Students are encouraged to contact Trubek for updates on future guest speakers and lectures from national universities about food systems.