There is a symbiotic relationship between the environment and nutrition. Symbiosis often applies in biology when referring to the association of two different organisms for a mutually beneficial purpose. The same connection applies to environmental conditions and food production. For example, agriculture is dependent on sunlight and rain. If either of these is, absent due to an adverse climate, and then food quantities and qualities can suffer.
Unfortunately, there are very few choices for students interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental nutrition. One school offering a Bachelor of Science in Food and Environmental Nutrition is the University of Akron. Available through their School of Nutrition and Dietetics, the degree prepares you to work in the food industry.
The U of A curriculum should appeal to students with an aptitude for the sciences. As a first-year student, there are two semesters of classes in organic chemistry, microbiology, and biochemistry. During your second year, the coursework switches to medical subjects, like anatomy, physiology, and medical nutrition therapy. There is also a physiology lab and food science lab.
Further to the example above, the third and fourth-year courses cover subjects related to nutrition, such as food systems, experimental foods, developments in food production, and the food industry.
Similar to bachelor’s programs in this major, the choices are few. One school that pops up on a Google search is the University of Memphis (UM). Their School of Health Studies offers a Master of Science in Environmental Nutrition. Unlike the aforementioned undergraduate program, their coursework focuses on nutrition. Some of the classes are:
- Humanitarian Nutrition
- Cultural Foods and Nutrition
- Environmental Nutrition
- Sustainability Food Systems
- Health Counseling
In preparation for the graduate degree at UM, students have several options. A short list of undergraduate majors consists of biology, chemistry, food science, dietetics, and nutrition. The latter is beneficial because the topics generally include food delivery methods, food systems, physiology, biology, and biochemistry. Physiology looks at how the body and its requirements change concerning nutrition.
If you choose nutrition as your undergraduate major, this will provide a foundation in the sciences, such as biology and chemistry, without narrowing your concentration in these subjects. Other classes may include physics, mathematics, and psychology.
A Bachelor of Science in Nutrition offers opportunities for specialization. The University of Texas-Austin, for example, has six options. Depending on your career and educational goals, one of these may suit your ambitions. These are:
- Nutritional Sciences
- Nutrition and Public Health
- Honors in Advanced Nutritional Sciences
- Nutrition Honors
- International Nutrition
There are other degree choices affiliated with environmental nutrition, which broadens your choice of graduate programs. An example is the Master of Science in Agriculture, Food, and Environment at Tuft University’s School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Eligible students learn about the science of agriculture and environmental policies associated with energy, air quality, water resources, and food production.
Your studies at Tuft include an in-depth look at the biochemical elements of nutrition, the economics of agriculture, ecology, climate change, federal policies, and sustainable food sources. Further examination of environmental issues covers the challenges of emissions, waste disposal, and the extraction of raw materials. You will also conduct a research project using the skills of data collection and analysis and qualitative methods.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not list the occupation of an environmental nutritionist. They report the job growth for Environmental Scientists and Specialists at 11%-a change in 9,900 positions through 2026. The average wage is $69,400 with a Bachelor’s degree.
The BLS states that the median salary for Dieticians and Nutritionists is $59,410, with a projected 15% growth in jobs over ten years. The employment change is the same number as those above.
According to the BLS, the majority of people in the nutrition category work in general medical and hospitals (18,130). The numbers are highest in state government (18,900), followed closely by management, scientific and consulting services, for environmental scientists (18,670).
Work opportunities for graduates in environmental nutrition have an array of industries from which to choose. Companies in food production require your knowledge to advice on growing and sustainability methods. Government jobs exist in food inspection, conservation, public health, and health agencies. You may also find work as a policy analyst on environmental issues related to food systems analysis, food security, food quality, and processing.
- Additional sectors for employment are:
- International Health Agencies
- Non-Profit Organizations
- Public Health Practice
- Biomedical Research
- Education/Health Promotion
The runaway rise in the world’s population highlights the need for environmental nutritionists. By mid-century, Earth will have to support nearly ten billion humans. The massive burden on food production has begun. Countries, such as the Netherlands have devised ways to grow plant foods with a fraction of the water used for conventional agriculture. Scientists have also reduced the use of pesticides by up to 60% in livestock and poultry.