USDA to fund sustainable food service curricula and credential for community colleges

Aug. 30, 2023
student at vending machine

CUNY SPH Associate Professor Nevin Cohen and colleagues were awarded a $250,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address diet-related health disparities and environmental impacts and drive culinary and operational changes in food service.

Dr. Cohen, LaGuardia Professor Nicolle Fernandes and Kingsborough Associate Professor Mark D’Alessandro, along with CUNY students, industry experts and non-profit organizations, will innovate the community college curricula to teach culinary and hospitality students about the relationship between food and climate change, the potential for food service to improve nutrition and health, and efficient food operations to reduce food waste. The goal is to meet the need for food service workers trained in sustainable, healthy food service, enhancing the relevance of community college culinary instruction and improving the job prospects of culinary, hospitality and related community college majors in the growing field of sustainable and healthy food service. The project will create a model for culinary and hospitality management education that will produce a workforce equipped to address critical environmental and public health needs.

Through co-design workshops and collaborations, the project will identify critical skills and competencies needed in sustainable and healthy food service, develop course modules, and create a stackable credential framework in climate-friendly, healthy, efficient food service (CHEF). The faculty collaborators will seek USDA implementation funds to launch and pilot test the CHEF credential framework at CUNY’s community colleges.

“Eliminating diet-related health disparities and the other environmental impacts of our current food system requires a shift in dietary patterns, such as increasing plant-forward meals and minimizing food loss and waste,” says Dr. Cohen. “Innovations in food service play important roles in changing consumption patterns and thus can contribute to population and planetary health. We’re thrilled to be able to proceed with this project thanks to USDA’s generous planning grant.”