North Texas Daily

New Food Certificate Offered

New Food Certificate Offered

January 29
00:00 2015

Steven James / Senior Staff Writer

In order to combat the increasing problem of food insecurity in the U.S., UNT’s Health Science Center will begin offering the Graduate Certificate in Food Security and Public Health this year.

The program is open to anybody with at least a bachelor’s degree and interested in learning more about the specific problems of food insecurity in Texas and the U.S. The program was created by Assistant Environmental and Occupational Health Professors Katherine Fogelberg and David Sterling, who is also department chair.

“There is a growing need not only for understanding food safety, but also food insecurity,” Fogelberg said. “Problems such as overweight and obesity, food deserts, exposure to chemicals and biological agents through food, transportation and the potential for large-scale agroterrorism attacks are growing as the global community expands. As such, this certificate program provides students an opportunity to become familiar with these issues, expand their ideas about public health, and gain an introductory level of knowledge that spans a broad spectrum of topics.”

Courses focus on epidemiology, food safety, animal and human disease and the environment, Fogelberg said. The program consists of five classes that can be taken online.

Admissions Director Liz Medders said online classes begin March 17 and traditional classes begin in June. Each course takes eight weeks to complete, and the certificate can be earned in one year.

People with different backgrounds are welcome to the program, especially those in natural and social sciences, Medders said.

Texas is one of eight states with a food insecurity level below the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. produces enough food to feed each person 4,000 calories a day, but millions of children are currently going hungry, Fogelberg said.


Illustration by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

In 2013, 49.1 million people lived in food-insecure households, including 12.2 million adults and 8.6 million children, and 17.5 million households were at some point food insecure, according to the USDA.

“As such, this certificate program provides students an opportunity to become familiar with these issues, expand their ideas about public health and gain an introductory level of knowledge that spans a broad spectrum of topics,” Fogelberg said. “Students will focus on issues from the local levels up, through and including global issues and surrounding food safety, security and sustainability.”

More than 65 percent of Texas adults are obese and 27.7 percent are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 13 percent of adolescents are obese and 15.6 percent are overweight, also according to the CDC.

This is the first certificate of its kind in Texas, which is why the program was created, Assistant Public Health Education Professor and Chair Matthew Adrignola said. Programs similar to the graduate certificate currently exist in other states.

One of the insecurity issues the program will focus on is food deserts, which are places that lack access to nutritional food, Adrignola said.

Food deserts are also places where the nearest supermarket is more than 10 miles away and low-income communities are most affected by the lack of nutritional food, according to the USDA.

“We need to bring more awareness to the public health professional,” Adrignola said. “We hear in the rest of the world that people don’t have access to food. Here, we have the exact opposite problem. People are overweight.”

In order to be accepted, an application must be sent to the HSC’s School of Public Health along with a transcript and application fee of $40, Medders said.

“Public health affects everyone,” Medders said. “A lot of people are interested in where our food comes from, and I think that is going to attract a lot of people to the program.”

Featured Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator

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