Bringing Food History to Nutrition

This is the third post in a series highlighting the ways students utilize Boston University’s many resources to cater the Gastronomy program to fit their own unique interests and needs. Don’t miss Carlos’ post on Entrepreneurship or Debra’s on Technology.

by Kelly Toups

As an eager, young registered dietitian, I quickly realized I’d rather spend my time talking about the “food” aspect of nutrition than insulin and tube feedings. The BU Gastronomy program, which focused on issues of culture, policy, food systems, and cuisine, was exactly the kind of education I that I needed to specialize within my field, and transition to a more food-focused career.

Although I already had the skills and training to work in nutrition, this unique Masters program framed food studies in a completely new way. Ellen Messer’s food policy courses whipped my domestic and international food policy knowledge into shape, and were especially useful throughout my yearlong internship at the Small Planet Institute, where I fact-checked and researched France’s Moore Lappé’s recently released book, World Huner: Ten Myths. I found that job through one of Barbara’s emails, and my professor was a reference. Gastronomy connections also helped me get my foot in the door at my current job at Oldways, a nonprofit nutrition education organization that promotes health through heritage. (A Gastronomy alum was working there at the time, helping me network my way to an interview.) Use your network!

While my job is primarily nutrition focused, knowledge from the BU Gastronomy program is relevant in the most surprising ways. I’m not sure how many people keep a food history textbook on their desk at work, but luckily, I am one of them! From writing about the history of grain and bean pairings, to answering questions about the affect of quinoa’s popularity on Bolivian farmers, to drafting comments to congressmen on food and nutrition related legislation, I can definitely say that Gastronomy helped prepare me for this job.

Although my dietetics training was already relevant to the career I was trying to build, the Gastronomy degree helped me bring another layer to my nutrition practice that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. You can read more about my Gastronomy experience here.

P.S. For anyone on the fence about the culinary arts program, just do it! I took the summer course (since I was working 9-5) and it was one of my favorite experiences at BU.

Kelly Toups (class of 2014) is a Boston-based registered dietitian. Keep up with her on Instagram (@kellytoupsrd) or on her blog (

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