SFU should bring back the food science and nutrition program

There are thousands of food-related jobs in BC that SFU students aren’t being prepared for

The science of food is a big industry in BC. Illustration: Maple Sukontasukkul/The Peak

By: Nathan Tok, Peak Associate

You know what is the most important thing to students? No, I’m not thinking of grades, or even how full the 145 is during rush hour. I am thinking of food. You know, the thing which enables people to live? Which gives us energy and enables students to study? Which keeps society functioning? 

Did you know the department of biomedical physiology and kinesiology (BPK) in the Faculty of Science used to offer the Applied Human Nutrition Certificate Program? Now the only certificate program in BPK is the Occupational Ergonomics certificate. While that program is important for students wanting to work toward keeping people safe and comfortable in various industries, nutrition or food science is important as well and should once again be offered to students. Indeed, the food science program at SFU was famous enough to have even been promoted by the Alberta government and on international student websites.

Food science, according to the UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems, goes beyond just how to make food. It looks at the biochemistry of food, nutrition, how food is made and processed, how food is developed, distributed, and influences our society. In short, it studies food through the tools of the natural and social sciences.

Beyond just offering essential life knowledge to students, a food science program would enable graduates to access and apply for a wide range of jobs such as food analysis technicians and food processing inspectors. Food and nutrition is a huge field in BC with over 2,500 food-related businesses generating around $9 billion worth of food per year. In fact, over 30,000 people in this province work in food-related jobs. In order to prepare its students for what is a very prevalent industry, SFU should reinstate a food science or nutrition program. 

There is good news, though! The infrastructure for the program is mostly in place already. To begin with, the program could follow the old Applied Human Nutrition Certificate Program with necessary changes made for course updates. For example, KIN 312: Nutrition in Fitness and Sport which existed in the old certificate program simply needs to be updated to BPK 312: Nutrition for Fitness and Sport. Other departments like biology can contribute courses to the program — such as BISC 373: Brewing Science — as an elective to supplement learning. 

As the food science program expands, brand new courses unique to the program, such as those dealing with food production processes, and food laws and regulations, could also be created to round off, strengthen, and specialize the program as per student interest.

BC is famous for food production. Just think about the Okanagan wineries, fruit farms, and dairy production (check where your milk comes from next time, it might be closer than you think) SFU should create a program to help students gain job-ready skills to tap into these promising BC industries.

So come on SFU, let’s recreate a program that will let students and faculty explore the exciting world of food!