2022

UCLA food studies institute to tackle global food challenges


UCLA food studies institute, led by Dr. Wendelin Slusser, will collaborate with a community of chefs & scholars in pursuit of a healthier population.

Two students cooking

Increasingly, scholars are studying food — its production, preparation, sharing, consumption and disposal — to better understand and tackle global challenges such as climate change, health and social disparities and labor conditions, and to improve access to information.

Already a leader in the emerging field of food studies, UCLA has created an interdisciplinary institute devoted to research, teaching and policy about food, made possible by an anonymous $13.5 million gift.

The UCLA Rothman Family Institute for Food Studies will bring together faculty, staff, students, chefs and members of the community and house UCLA’s popular food studies minor and graduate certificate program. The gift will provide ongoing funding for research, curriculum and library resources, including the first endowed food studies librarian at a university, as well as hands-on experiential learning opportunities such as a new chef-in-residence program that would begin in spring 2022. It will expand the offerings of the UCLA Teaching Kitchen, launched in 2019, which helps students learn to cook healthy and affordable meals and which has operated remotely during the pandemic.

“Food is central to the human experience, and this new institute will play a leading role in examining aspects of our relationship with food as well as the ways in which food systems tie into larger issues like public health, sustainability and economic well-being,” said UCLA Chancellor Dr. Gene Block. “The institute exemplifies what UCLA does so well, which is bring communities together alongside experts from across the disciplines to address some of society’s most complex challenges.”

The institute bolsters the UC Office of the President’s Global Food Initiative, created in 2014 and focused on how to feed a world population expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.

“Food can heal. The institute is looking at food from a system-based, interdisciplinary perspective to contribute to the health and well-being of the individual, community and the planet,” said Dr. Wendelin Slusser, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health assistant professor of community health sciences and associate vice provost of Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center at UCLA, whose work across campus and in Los Angeles helped build the foundation for the institute.

“UCLA is uniquely positioned as a leader in food studies,” said biophysicist Dr. Amy Rowat, UCLA’s Marcie H. Rothman Professor of Food Studies. “We are known for our strengths in the sciences and the arts, and have strong partnerships with community organizations dedicated to equal food access. We will also capitalize on UCLA’s location in one of the most diverse cities in the world, which is home to so many innovative chefs.”

Rowat, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College, is a pioneer in using food to introduce complex concepts in science to nonscientists. She is co-director of the UCLA Semel Healthy Campus Initiative EatWell pod and the founder and director of the Science and Food organization at UCLA. Rowat will spearhead many of the institute’s activities, including expanding her long-running science and food course and developing the chef-in-residence program, a 10-week interdisciplinary course in which chefs are paired with faculty to engage students on topics from food equity to the microbiome. Rowat’s lab will continue to develop sustainable options for food production.

Helping to advance the institute’s vision and Rowat’s work is UCLA Library’s new Rothman Family Food Studies Librarian. Alexandra Solodkaya is the first person to hold the position and she will curate a broad scope of food-related research and teaching services, materials and collections. Given the speed with which social media can amplify incorrect information, the food studies librarian will challenge students to think critically about sources.

“We are grateful for this gift — the largest in the division’s history — which will allow more of our students and faculty to delve into this growing area of inquiry,” said Dr. Adriana Galván, dean of the division of undergraduate education, who emphasized how the institute’s interdisciplinary approach would benefit students.

by Elizabeth Kivowitz


The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 761 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.

Faculty Referenced by this Article

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Wendelin Slusser
Community Health Sciences
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Dawn Upchurch
Community Health Sciences
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Kimberley Shoaf
Community Health Sciences
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Paula Tavrow
Paula Tavrow
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Dana Rose Garfin
Dana Rose Garfin
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Chandra Ford
Chandra Ford
Community Health Sciences
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Kimberly Gregory
Kimberly Gregory
Community Health Sciences
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Robert Kim-Farley
Robert J. Kim-Farley

Robert J. Kim-Farley, MD, MPH, is a Professor-in-Residence with joint appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology and Community Health Sciences

Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Sheba George
Community Health Sciences
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Dana Hunnes
Dana Hunnes
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Donald Morisky
Donald E. Morisky
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Elizabeth Yzquierdo
Elizabeth Yzquierdo
Community Health Sciences
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Ondine S. von Ehrenstein
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Valentine M. Villa
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Jessica Gipson
Jessica Gipson
Community Health Sciences
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Jennifer A. Wagman
Jennifer A. Wagman
Community Health Sciences
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James Macinko
James Macinko

Professor of Community Health Sciences & Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Research

Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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glik, deborah
Deborah Glik
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Michael Prelip
Michael Prelip
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Elizabeth D'Amico
Elizabeth D’Amico
Community Health Sciences
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Cathy Lang
Cathy Lang

Assistant Dean for Research & Adjunct Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences

Community Health Sciences
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Courtney Thomas Tobin headshot.png
Courtney S. Thomas Tobin
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Alina Dorian
Alina Dorian
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Samuel Stratton
Samuel Stratton
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez
Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez
Community Health Sciences
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Virginia C. Li
Virginia C. Li
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Randall Kuhn
Randall Kuhn
Community Health Sciences
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May Wang headshot
May C. Wang
Community Health Sciences
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Sarah Blenner
Sarah Blenner

Director of Field Studies and Applied Professional Training

Community Health Sciences
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Philip Massey headshot
Philip Massey
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Anne Pebley
Anne Pebley
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. May Sudhinaraset
May Sudhinaraset
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Shira Shafir
Shira Shafir
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim headshot.png
Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim
Community Health Sciences
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David Eisenman
David Eisenman
Community Health Sciences
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Charlotte Neumann
Charlotte G. Neumann
Community Health Sciences
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halbert, ronald
Ronald Halbert
Community Health Sciences
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Natalie Muth
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Judith M. Siegel
Judith M. Siegel
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Gilbert Gee
Gilbert C. Gee
Community Health Sciences
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Sean Darling-Hammond
Sean Darling-Hammond
Biostatistics Community Health Sciences
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Ilan H. Meyer
Ilan H. Meyer
Community Health Sciences
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Marjorie Kagawa-Singer
Marjorie Kagawa-Singer
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Michael Rodriguez
Michael Rodriguez
Community Health Sciences
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Diana Bonta
Diana Bonta
Community Health Sciences
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Dr. Michael Goldstein
Michael Goldstein
Community Health Sciences
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Dena Herman
Dena Herman
Community Health Sciences
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