College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Animal & Avian Sciences

ANSC227 Opens Minds Through Stomachs

ANSC227 enjoys the fruit of its labor.
Photo Credit: 
Dr. Charlie Apter

While they may seem unconnected, a dried apple can be an allegory for personal hygiene and making dill pickles is a way to learn about buying food responsibly.  These connections are the building blocks behind ANSC227, Eating with Eyes Wide Open. Dr. Charlie Apter who teaches the class, uses making food as a medium to increase student awareness about much larger issues. These issues range from obesity to how crop subsidies affect the general public’s well being.

“College-aged students seem to think they’re invincible, but by the age of 18 many dietary habits have become well entrenched,” the lecturer said. “I want to shake things up a bit through the conversations we have throughout the semester.” One of the major trends he wants to shake up is the rise in obesity and diabetes. Half of Hispanic and African-American children will become obese diabetics, as well as one third of the total population.

Obesity is far from the only issue discussed, however. Dr. Apter says that government policy has facilitated an American diet in which calories are monetarily cheap. For example, an asparagus bunch is more expensive than many foods found at McDonald’s or Taco Bell. At the heart of the problem are agricultural subsidies, which have been in place for more than a generation.

To get some hands on experience in how food can be sustainably produced, the class takes a trip to 251 North every semester. There, Dr. Apter teaches his students how what they buy will determine the future of the food industry. “They can vote with their food dollars, either for maintenance of the status quo or for a more sustainable food production system that promotes both personal and environmental health,” Dr. Apter explained. 

Dr. Apter said that while creating a new class was difficult, it’s been a labor of love. “It’s been tough to figure out the right balance of difficulty and ease and to build up a viable collection of handouts and readings.” Dr. Apter said. “Also, it’s been hard trying to figure out or modify mechanical issues of teaching in a large class setting.” A typical class size is 60 students with only about 20 getting the hands-on, lab type experience. 

As for the food that Dr. Apter plans to make in the fall, “I plan to have the class make hard cider, beer, dill pickles, jerky, bread, sauerkraut using lactofermentation, yogurt, butter, kefir, mozzarella cheese, and soy milk as an intermediate in tofu production,” he said.

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