Cal Poly Humboldt Food Sustainability Minor

Steffi Puerto, EcoNews Intern

This fall Cal Poly Humboldt has introduced a new sustainable food system minor. This minor is aimed to create an understanding of how our local and global food is produced, prepared, and distributed while at the same time honoring the connections we share with food. 

The sustainable food systems minor is specifically directed toward Latinx students. The intention of the grant is to connect students with an understanding of where their food is sourced from and honor the local connections they have with their local food systems. 

The minor was created and funded by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA Hispanic Serving Institutions Education Grant funded $250,000 for the approximate five-year span. The grant is directed to “aspire to improve degree completion and graduation rates to close equity gaps between Hispanic and other students,” according to the USDA website. The grant will also focus on providing internship opportunities, course enhancements and faculty-based learning communities. 

Susan Ediger Marshall is the advisor for the minor and the director of the USDA grant proposal. It’s important to Marshall that the grant represents and integrates Latinx students into the local food systems in the community. 

“From the perspective of the grant that we wrote there’s a challenge at this Hispanic Serving Institution to be genuine about welcoming Latinx students,” Marshall added. “Food is common ground, we all eat, and it’s something we can share and relate to in a friendly way. There’s no controversy when we share food with a person,” Marshall said.

The minor is helping bridge a diverse cultural understanding of the power that local food systems have by examining food through an interdisciplinary lens. It will also provide students with leadership and community-building skills so they feel comfortable obtaining careers in Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Human Science (FANH). 

“There’s going to be many opportunities for you in what is called FANH. The USDA is trying to diversify its workforce and get people to think about careers in this case in food science. There are manager jobs, there are technology jobs, and there’s so much beyond working in the fields and basic labor,” Marshall said.

The sustainable food systems minor is the first interdisciplinary study that combines three colleges. These colleges include Natural Resources and Sciences, Professional Studies, and Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. These colleges are connected through the theme of sustainable food systems and allow students to use their various disciplines in the sciences and liberal arts to explore how food relates to their health, society, culture, and the sustainability of their local ecosystems. 

There are four core classes and 18 units to fulfill the minor requirement. According to the program website, this includes: 

  • Indigenous Natural Resource Management Practices (3 units) 
  • Basic Human Nutrition (3 units) 
  • Sustainable Food Systems (3 units) 
  • Wildland Resource Principles or Case Studies in Environmental Ethics (3 units) 

ANTH 308: Sustainable Food Systems, is one out of the three core curriculum classes that was specifically designed for the minor. The class will be offered this Spring semester. The course “examines historical, ethical and cultural considerations in food and agriculture industries and paths to food system equity; and emphasizes critical thinking and writing skills to develop solutions for local and national food system sustainability issues,” according to Comida Nos Une website. 

Although internships are still under development, Marshall shares that their goal within the internship programs is to get Cal Poly Humboldt students out in the community and have the community welcome students. 

The plan of the grant is to have successfully integrated a Food Systems Science bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly Humboldt within the next five years as a part of the Polytechnic roll out. 

A big emphasis with the USDA is teaching students about the different types of careers that they can go into including nutrition, farming, manufacturing, being an entrepreneur who wants to create new food science, or an activist who wants to fight for food banking or ensuring students have healthy options at their schools. There are many different careers that can branch out from this field of study.