Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

Exploring Food Policy

Author: By David Flynn, Associate Professor of Liberal Arts

Is your student curious about food from the perspective of its intersection with economics, political science, psychology, anthropology, and law? Then he or she may be interested in Food Policy, one of the core courses in the bachelor’s in Applied Food Studies (AFS) degree program, which offers students the chance to delve deeply into policies affecting the food industry. The course, also available as an elective for students in other majors, takes a cross-disciplinary approach to the study of policy and food.

Students in the course have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the study of public policy theory. Through experiential learning, they apply the theoretical and empirical knowledge they’ve gained from readings and discussion to developing food policy on the CIA campus. The course culminates with a white paper containing students’ in-depth analysis and policy recommendations regarding the sustainability of a component of campus food operations.

A Living Social Science Laboratory

The unique nature of the Hyde Park, NY campus—with its full-service restaurants, bakery café, production kitchens, bakeshops, and Restaurant Associates-operated student dining—provides a fascinating and arguably one-of-a-kind social science laboratory. Very few colleges have the capacity to offer students the opportunity to investigate and conduct real-world experiments with foodservice operations. The Food Policy course takes full advantage of this exceptional environment to facilitate students’ engagement in primary research, which in turn hones their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Food Policy students grapple with the complexities of integrating sustainability criteria into real-world food policies. They use primary research methodologies—surveys, interviews, and observation—which provide opportunities to drill down on a problem and develop actionable policy solutions. The course uses case studies to highlight the challenges inherent in public policy approaches to solving societal problems. Case studies include food and public health (food taxes, serving-size limits, marketing to children), labor in the food system (tipped minimum wage, paid sick days, fair scheduling), and animal welfare (gestation crates in the pork industry, gavage in foie gras production).

Putting Policies to Work on Campus

Our students have developed policies to increase transparency in meat purchasing at the CIA, accommodate food allergies in campus dining, and improve the sustainability of how the campus handles waste. The current class is working on the sustainability of “to-go” packaging at the Apple Pie Bakery Café. They are analyzing the lifecycle of the current packaging, investigating alternatives, developing behavioral nudges to create more sustainable default options, and tackling the challenges of integrating sustainable practices while maintaining profitability and customer satisfaction.

The challenges facing today’s food system are precisely what our students confront in their research. This experiential approach to problem solving, coupled with the opportunity to present their analysis and recommendations to campus leaders, excites and engages our students. It is this rich interdisciplinary and experiential approach to learning in the Applied Food Studies program that nurtures our students’ creativity and empowers them to develop the innovative thinking they’ll need to create a more sustainable system when they go out into the world.

Contact Us

The Center for Career and Academic Advising
1946 Campus Drive—Roth Hall Room E-255
Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499