Academics: Special Academic Programs and Offerings

Food Studies Program

Departments of English, Economics and the Honors Program (May 2011); World Languages and Literature (August 2011)

“History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive; it knows the names of the kings’ bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. That is the way of human folly.” – Jean Henri Fabre 

Food and all that is associated with production and consumption of it is part of the core of our humanity. It is one of the first desires when we are brought from the womb, and one of the last before we die.  We have an association with it multiple times during each day, yet in our ‘ready-made’ commodity focused society few really think much about it anymore. There is little effort in obtaining it (anymore), and few know what is in our food – where it comes from – or how it is made. All basic food items have a diverse a complicated history.

Each bite we take speaks to personal, communal and global ideals. As educators we feel it is important to dissect, analyze and extrapolate from this rich history and the current situation we find ourselves.  Directing students in such reflection can open new relationships and interests with a variety of disciplines.

(Above photo by Kathleen Phillips-Lewis, Department of History, June 2008)

UNCF Food Literacy Symposium 2011

Across the Disciplines and Around the Table: Rethinking Interdisciplinary in  Research and Teaching using Food as a Model, June 28-29, 2011

: Arlene Avakian/Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Robert Hamilton/Art, Spelman College; Sunil Malapati/Bio-Chemistry and Engineering, Clarke University; Fatemeh Shafiei/Political Science, Spelman College; Jerry Wever/Sociology and Anthropology, Spelman College; Monica White/Sociology, Wayne State University; Rafia Zafar/English/African & African American Studies/American Culture Studies, Washington University.

This spring semester (2011), Kimberly Jackson (Chemistry) And Patricia Ventura (English) submitted a proposal to UNCF for a symposium on food as a model for interdisciplinary in scholarship and teaching.  This workshop, held June 28-29, 2011, was titled. Participants were asked to submit proposals. Fostering interdisciplinary teaching and research collaboratives among traditionally disparate disciplines can often lead to creative outcomes.

The purpose of this project was to encourage interdisciplinary research and teaching among faculty from UNCF undergraduate institutions. Since food is essential to every person's life, it was being used as a medium and vehicle to facilitate a dialogue about interdisciplinary integration. Food is mathematics. Food is a social issue. Food is economics. Food is environmental studies. food is chemistry and biology. Food is history. Food is philosophy. Food is gender. Food is dance. Food is a way of life. This symposium featured workshops, roundtables, an evening performance, and field trips to encourage participants to develop ways to bring an interdisciplinary focus to their disciplines.

The intellectual/teaching passions represented in the proposals submitted by participants are wide-ranging, and yet the topics and questions do connect to one another:  How do I get students to love the study of chemistry as much as I do?  The study of biology as much as I do?  How do African women writers use the "complexity" of food to "provide a glimpse into the inner workings of a community?" Did Doris Lessing craft an "econlogical vision of abundance" in her work, Alfred and Emily?  How do I create interdisciplinary food modules in existing discipline-based courses?

One proposal had the intriguing title, "From Fried Chicken and Collard Greens to Tofu:  Food as Pleasure, Pain, and Power in African American Film and Literature." And then there was talk of "Miss Kizzie," Gloria Naylor, great-grandmothers and Gullah/Geechee diasporic discoveries.

(Above photo by Robert Hamilton, Department of Art, June, 2011)

UNCF Across the Disciplines Flyer | Across the Disciplines Schedule