In the words of our students, food is a fantastic lens through which we can understand the world. It intersects every facet of everyday life and impacts how agriculture, economics, science, politics, culture, and human rights connect.
The 36-credit hour Master of Science in Food Studies curriculum focuses on the economy of food systems, including food governance, human rights, international trade, and food justice. Students develop skills and proficiency in how human health and nutrition, economic development, and the environment are shaped by local and global food policy, economic trends, and civil society. Additionally, we emphasize the development of competencies in research methods and program evaluation which magnifies graduate competitiveness for both Ph.D. academic positions and the job market. We pursue and welcome analyses that incorporate social justice, race, ethnicity, and gender and sexuality. The program culminates in either a graduate practicum or thesis. For detailed degree requirements, including a course list, visit the course catalog.
Food Studies at Syracuse University’s Falk College introduces a political economy and human rights-based approach to food systems. We pursue the dynamics of food justice and sovereignty: can individuals and diverse communities in the US and abroad control their local food economies to promote sustainable food and farm livelihoods within regional, national and transnational webs of trade, policy, and universal human rights. Topics of particular focus include food systems and governance, food and nutrition security, trade, and agroecology—the interaction of plants with the environment and each other in the context of agriculture. In this way, we differ from most Food Studies graduate programs, which more typically focus on the cultural history of food and gastronomy—the practice of selecting, preparing, and consuming food. We respect those approaches, and incorporate them where possible, but our goal is to emphasize our niche.
Why this degree makes a difference in society today…tomorrow…
Food is a universal component of every facet of life. Government, business, and the public have growing awareness of and interest in where food comes from, how it is produced, and its impact on culture, health, the environment, economics, and politics. A career in food provides limitless opportunities to make significant impact. Graduates can position themselves at the forefront of community advocacy where they support public education, urban development, and food access. In the government sector, they work with legislators to initiate food system policy reform, labor reform, and more, all of which which impact public health, the economy, and the environment. In business, from farms to restaurants and everywhere in-between, graduates connect the dots to help build sustainable food systems, communities, and human livelihoods.
Core courses focuses on multi-scale interpretations of the political economy of the food system, human rights to adequate food, as well as transnational food movements and related public policy. Sample courses include:
- Seminar in Food Studies and Systems
- The Human Right to Adequate Food and Nutrition
- Political Economy of Food
- Transnational Food, Health and the Environment
- Food and Public Policy
- Gender, Food, Rights
- Applied Epidemiology in Global Health
- Food Systems Planning and Design
- Seminar in Political Ecology
What Our Students Are Saying
Briana Alfaro, G’18, MS Food Studies
“The Food Studies program was a perfect fit for my interest and experience
in social justice and food systems work, because food is a tangible vehicle
for understanding strengths and weaknesses within our socio-economic
systems. Learning to think more critically and reflectively in my courses
enabled me to be a more confident and effective advocate, while the
research methods I practiced as a student and research assistant have been
an asset as a practitioner. I can’t thank the faculty and staff enough for
their expertise and support.”
Practicum or Thesis
At the culmination of their Food Studies M.S., students have the option to complete either a practicum or thesis. Very generally speaking, a practicum provides exposure and experience to Food Studies career directions; the thesis builds research proficiency useful for further academic training. Both options remain open, regardless of immediate post-graduation plans.
The graduate practicum places students in a public, private, or private-nonprofit organization. Students apply for a practicum assignment with the help of a Food Studies Internship Placement Coordinator. Under the direction of a site preceptor, students apply their knowledge and skills to gain new competencies and critically evaluate food systems through firsthand experience.
Student practicum sites have included:
- Capital Roots – Food Systems Assessment
- FarmNet – Mental health resources for organic farmers
- Syracuse City School District – Farm to school supply chain
- FoodPlan CNY – food policy council development
- Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia – agricultural imports product development and food safety
- Mountain Roots School – teaching gardens and agri nutrition education
- Cornell Cooperative Extension – food summit development and producer outreach
The thesis option is conducted with the approval and guidance of a faculty adviser aligned with a student’s interests. Students are expected to write their thesis on an original topic that has a substantial research component and that can contribute new knowledge to the field of Food Studies.
Broaden your perspective and enhance your resume with a study abroad experience during your college years. Consistently ranked among the top 25 international education providers in the U.S., Syracuse Abroad has more than 100 programs in 60 countries.
Food studies students can go to Syracuse University Florence, where the campus has a kitchen garden and they can engage in hands-on learning, complete internships, and experience first-hand the way food systems and food cultures vary around the world.
South Asian Cultures: Family, Food, and Health Care Systems introduces food studies students to the South Asian culture, family, food and healthcare systems, where students will sample and experience regional and religious diversity through lectures, films/documentaries, reading and a cultural immersion trip to India.
What's next after this degree
Goodfoodjobs.com, comfoodjobs.com, foodnavigator.com, idealist.org, and foodsystemsnetwork.org are examples of websites that promote the steadily growing professional opportunities in food-related fields with public, for-profit, and not-for-profit organizations. Graduates of our food studies programs are well prepared for these jobs, as well as for advanced graduate work at the Ph.D. level. Many doctoral programs available today are increasingly focusing on food studies and food systems research.
Growing awareness and understanding of the food system and its effects on the public health, the environment, economy, and beyond, has led to a growing number of exciting, evolving careers. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports expanding career opportunities for those with experience in global food systems and governance in sustainability, environmental health, epidemiology, advocacy, economy policy and regulation, public health and nutrition, trade and food oriented labor, and food production, distribution and security. Similarly, the USDA forecasts growing career opportunities in business, government, education, communication, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), for graduates with experience in food, agriculture, and environmental matters such as renewable natural resources. The following Food Studies-related employment titles were selected from recent job announcements.
- Food Systems Coordinator (building local food economies)
- Food Justice, Sovereignty, and Equity Program Coordinator
- Sustainability Officer (promoting sustainable food systems, agroecology, linking nutrition and food systems)
- Emergency Food Access Administrator
- Food Safety/Inspection Manager at national, regional, or local level
- Food Policy Officer & Coordinator, (e.g. with food policy councils and other private, public, and private-non-profit sectors groups)
- General Manager regional food hub & local food distribution company
- Farm Education Director; Coordinator
- Agricultural Administrator
- Organic Materials Review Program Manager
- Practicum Coordinator Food Studies Program
- Food Journalist/ Editor
- Communications Manager for sustainable agriculture group
- Food Assessment Researcher (at community or regional scale)
- Manager of food, tourism, and hospitality ventures
A Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university with a graduating GPA of 3.0 or higher, minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL (for international applications), undergraduate transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume and personal statement, and optional GRE scores. Additionally, students must have taken an undergraduate class in social science research methods and an upper division food studies class or take these courses at Syracuse University for no graduate credit. Students from broad inclusive fields of undergraduate study and work experience will be considered for admission. Exceptions to the university requirements will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Food Studies Graduate Admissions Committee, to be made up of three members of the Food Studies Program. The Admissions Committee is mostly looking at the academic and practical experience a student will bring to the program and how well the program fits into a students’ career goals and dreams and how well the program can support these aspirations.Apply Today!