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New Certificate on the Menu

Fresh crops in a field.

First-of-its-kind program at Bloomberg School ties food system to public health.

 

In response to growing interest among students, Environmental Health Sciences is now serving up a Certificate in the Food System, Environment and Public Health. The program, sponsored by the Center for a Livable Future, debuted in the 2014-2015 academic year.

“Food is personal, and bringing in public health and the ecosystem into those daily decisions is definitely an emerging field,” says senior academic program coordinator Margaret Burke. “We found that there aren’t any other programs [in U.S. schools of public health] that really focus on the food system, so we developed one.”

Faculty at the Center handpicked existing food-related courses across the Bloomberg School’s departments and bundled them to provide students with a focused survey of the food system—growth, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal—through the public health lens.

Whether students want to work for government agencies or nonprofit organizations, the skills they stand to gain in risk assessment, persuasive communication, media advocacy and campaigning will empower them to turn knowledge into action.

“We wanted to give students a formalized training program that shows employers they have studied food system issues,” explains Pamela Rhubart Berg, the Center’s academic program manager. Having ushered the certificate through the approval process, she now manages the online flagship course: Food Production, Public Health and the Environment.

Classes overlap with master’s and doctoral degree requirements, enabling students with full plates to complete the program before graduation. Non-degree seeking professionals with an appetite for continuing education can enroll specifically for the certificate and earn it within 3 years.

To reach junior- and mid-level public health professionals outside of Baltimore, Burke envisions a future with more online offerings. For now, they can reference free course materials through OpenCourseWare. The Center’s faculty also teaches a free MOOC on the U.S. food system through Coursera.

When students ask, the School aims to deliver. “We will continue to listen to students and get feedback from them to see how we can improve the program to meet their needs,” Berg says.

—Salma Warshanna-Sparklin