Food Studies University of the Pacific San Francisco

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Food Studies Program at University of the Pacific San Francisco Master of Arts Degree or Certificate and Weekend Seminars Ken Albala, Director


University of the Pacific offers a Master of Arts in Food Studies at the San Francisco campus and online. This multidisciplinary program is designed to train students to master skills necessary for success in food related professions. Courses range across many disciplines including Anthropology, History, Sociology, Literature and Law, and focus on developing mastery in research, writing and policy making methodologies. The successful student will gain expertise in multiple food policy implementation strategies for use by producers, consumers and law makers. Students will develop exceptional proficiency in evaluating the social, economic, aesthetic and political impact of food choices made by individuals and groups. These skills will equip them for careers in business including marketing, advertising, research and development, for positions in government agencies, NGOs, non profit and philanthropic organizations, for careers in food writing, social work, lobbying and for advanced work in academia.

Courses in the Food Studies program systematically examine the many complexities of the modern food system, the ethical, environmental and health impact of how we grow, process, distribute, and consume food. They explore the historical dimensions of how various cultures have obtained and processed food and beverages, why serious inequalities in access to food still prevail around the world and the role food industries have in shaping the way we eat.

The program entails 32 credits of course work (8 four unit classes) drawn from a core of 4 classes offered annually and 4 electives offered in rotation. The degree can be completed full time in four semesters with a two course load each semester or may be completed over several years. There is no minimum course load required to remain in the program, but registration and matriculation fees will apply every semester to maintain active status. Students may also take courses ad hoc without seeking the degree, though the same entrance requirements will apply for all students.

A final thesis project with one-on-one faculty direction serves as the capstone experience for four units (Food 299), to be taken the final semester before graduating. Students may instead opt to complete the degree requirements by examination, the scheduling and contents of which are to be agreed upon the board of directors. Each examination will be comprehensive and specially tailored to reflect the courses taken by each individual student.

Faculty are drawn from many academic departments, and include food experts at other institutions and working food professionals in the Bay Area and beyond. All courses may be taken in person or through a live feed from a distance. Attendance and participation is strictly required regardless of mode of delivery and reception. Class size is intentionally small, intensive and goal-oriented. All courses require extensive research and writing projects, written examinations and grades for participation.

Certificate Option: Students may opt to receive a certificate upon the completion of 16 units of course work (4 four unit courses).
One Credit Seminars: Throughout each semester one unit focused courses will be offered featuring speakers with direct practical experience in various food businesses. These may be taken by full time and part time students for credit as well as interested community members for a fee. These seminars will include business owners, policy makers and engaged food activists.

Speaker Series: Throughout each semester the program will also feature lectures by prominent food personalities and scholars. These will be open to the public for a nominal fee.

Core Faculty

Ken Albala, History Department, COP and Director of Food Studies
Alison Alkon, Sociology Department, COP
Analiese Richard, Anthropology, School of International Studies

The program will also feature core adjuncts, experts in their fields, regularly teaching courses as well as adjuncts brought in to teach on occasion specific special topics courses, all of which will be offered for credit.

Entry Requirements

Applicants will normally have a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree with a 3.0 minimum average. Students may enter with any undergraduate major and the program intentionally welcomes students from a broad range of backgrounds including business, health sciences, law, the social sciences, and humanites. Entry is competitive and will be based on grade point average, a letter of intention, writing sample, and three letters of recommendation from faculty members or employers familiar with the applicant’s work. The board of directors will evaluate applicants and oversee programatic rigor. Applications should be sent electronically to


Core Courses: 4 Required drawn from the following 7 core courses. Food 201 is required for all entering students. It is also a prerequisite for all elective courses.

Food 201: Intro to Food Studies
Overview of the state of the field from a multidisciplinary perspective. Examines production, distribution, consumption patterns, ways that scholars address these topics, research methodologies and practical applications of food studies to the job market.

Food 202: History of Food
Detailed examination of the importance of food as a catalyst in history. Focus on interpretation of primary documents and critical assessment of secondary literature. Covers from human evolution and the Neolithic Revolution to the present.

Food 203: Food Writing
A practical course designed to hone student’s writing skills, pitch food writing to a variety of markets and address important issues for many different audiences, academic and popular. Intensive writing workshop.

Food 204: Anthropology of Food
This course examines the diversity of global foodways from biocultural and cross-cultural perspectives. It offers an analysis of the important role of food production, preparation, and eating in different cultures as well as the symbolic ritual importance of food.

Food 206: Sociology of Food
Exploration of the production, distribution and consumption of food from a sociological perspective with emphases on political economy, culture, labor, inequalities and movements for food system reform.

Food 207: Food, Nutrition and Human Health
Analysis of how approaches to health and nutrition have shifted over time and across different cultures. We also explore the roles of food and nutrition science in shaping dietary trends and patterns.

Food 208: Research Methods in Food Studies

Covers basic techniques for collecting, interpreting and analyzing qualitative data in the field of food studies. The class examines the theoretical approaches to various types of qualitative research as well as the practical techniques of data collection, such as working with primary documents, identifying key informants, selecting respondents, collecting field notes, analyzing data, writing and presenting findings to academic and non-academic audiences.


A further four courses are required drawn either from the core or from the following courses offered on an ad hoc basis:

Food 293A: Food Justice
Investigates the roles of intersecting hierarchies including race, class, gender, national status and sexuality in shaping the production, distribution and consumption of food . Examines community-based and policy responses to these inequalities.

Food 293B: Food Biography of San Francisco
Focuses on the city as a locus of research in food history and as an example of local history. Course includes trips to producers and restaurants, sites important in the history of the city and food history in general.

The Business of Food in the US
Introduction to Food Systems
Agriculture and Animal Husbandry
The Global Economics of Food
Introduction to Gastronomy
The Politics of Food
Ethical Issues in Production and Consumption
Animal Rights
Food Tourism
Food in the Arts and Literature
Contemporary Food Issues
Food-Borne Pathogens and Public Health
The Science of Food
Food Marketing and Advertisement
Hunger and Foreign Aid
Neutraceuticals, Food as Pharmacy

Food 299 Thesis Project

The thesis project should be a sustained semester long project researched and written under the direct supervision of a thesis advisor. The advisor and one outside reader appointed by the program director will evaluate the written thesis.

Program Outcomes

The core curriculum is designed for students to achieve

Mastery of Research Skills in a variety of disciplines focusing on food including archival analysis of primary historical documents, research methods in the social sciences including field work, designing surveys and statistical analysis of data. These will be assessed in research projects throughout the core.

Mastery of Writing about food for a variety of audiences, academic, popular and business-oriented. Courses in the core systematically train students to write persuasively, using relevant data and with technical proficiency and style. This will be assessed through writing assignments and exams throughout the core.

Mastery of application of key concepts and theoretical positions to concrete food situations from a variety of perspectives: ethical, aesthetic, environmental, health-related. Assessed through class discussion and research projects.

The electives are designed for students to achieve practical experience in applying the research, writing, critical thinking skills gained in the core to specific food problems and challenges we face today. These courses are geared toward attaining specific career goals in fields such as journalism, the food industries, health professions, and policy making organizations.

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