DENTON (UNT), Texas – A new master’s degree fellowship at the University of North Texas will immerse one graduate student in the field of food history.
Funds from the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts will support a $5,000 annual stipend for two years of the student research fellowship.
Food has a story to tell, says UNT history professor Jennifer Wallach. It plays a fundamental role in the history of all things.
“It’s a building block to all human behavior. If we want to understand anything, we want to think about food,” said Wallach, who specializes in African-American history and has been both author or editor for a number of books that use food to talk about broader social, economic, cultural and other issues.
In the UNT Department of History, eight faculty members have food-related research interests ranging from how federal food policies have influenced citizens’ body shapes to what role the displacement of street food vendors played in the gentrification of downtown Puebla, Mexico.
The new graduate fellow will select his or her own research area within food history and will be eligible for opportunities to teach in food history classrooms and present their research in public forums. The student also will be charged with promoting UNT’s History Garden, an initiative started by environmental history professor Michael Wise last spring to give students experiential learning experiences with food planting and harvesting.
“This is a small pilot project for our larger goal, which is to have a living museum of historic plants that will have an outdoor farm component and then also an indoor museum,” Wise said.
The fellowship itself is one step toward a broader plan to develop an interdisciplinary food studies program at UNT. A working group of more than 30 faculty members across five colleges are engaging in conversations now about how such a program could work.
“It’s an opportunity for us to train a very special kind of candidate for jobs in food-related fields spanning the hospitality industry to the sciences,” Wise said.