LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles is already one of the best cities to enjoy food, but now students at UCLA can actually study it.

What You Need To Know

  • The UCLA Rothman Family Institute for Food Studies in the Division of Undergraduate Education launched in January

  • An anonymous $13.5 million gift enabled the program to be fully funded

  • The Rothman Family Food Studies librarian will be available to anyone looking to sort through food misinformation

  • The teaching kitchen is interdisciplinary and open to both undergraduate and graduate students

The university just recently launched an entire institute dedicated to food studies, an interdisciplinary program open to both undergrad and grad students that covers a wide range of subjects, including food justice. One course included in the food studies colloquium is the teaching kitchen.

It’s being launched, in part, as an effort to clear up the widespread misinformation around food. UCLA joins a list of other prestigious universities with a food studies program, such as UC Berkeley, Princeton, NYU and USC.

Growing up in Los Angeles, UCLA med student Allison Leggett said she witnessed food insecurity in her neighborhood and in her own family, and it’s what drew her to sign up for the food studies colloquium even though it’s not required for her degree.

“Personally, I’ve struggled with food insecurity myself as a college student, so that was one of the things that drew me to this program,” Leggett said. “I’ve also had a lot of family members succumb to a lot of chronic illnesses, and in medicine, that’s not something that’s routinely taught.”

Leggett recently visited the teaching kitchen, where students learn how to make nutritious food — something not everyone had the privilege to learn while growing up. The students learned how to make tomato soup from scratch, for example.

Chef Julia Rhoton, who teaches the class, said the beauty of it is that what they learn goes far beyond the four walls of the kitchen.

“One of my former students has a 12-year-old son who spent 12 years eating out, and now they cook together three nights a week. That’s generational impact.”

Natalie Marshall is a linguistic anthropology doctoral student, and like Leggett, she isn’t required to take the colloquium but appreciates that it applies and enhances so many fields of study.

“I’ve definitely gotten a more holistic overview of what food studies is and can be, and the different forms that it takes in different disciplines and arenas.”

And for Leggett, she said the recipes, nutrition and food science she’s learning in the food studies colloquium will definitely be part of her primary care practice.

“I think food is medicine, and I think it’s incredibly important for me as a future physician to delve into this issue and understand how I can be the best provider for my patients in primary care.”

Most recently, the school added a full-time food studies librarian, who is available to anyone looking to sift through the myriad of food misinformation.