Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you! Tommy Smothers

Until very recently I thought food security referred to a sour maitre d’ at a certain exclusive restaurant at which I did not have a reservation, a gaunt man of around forty who managed to stand between me and one of the best steaks in Seattle. Or perhaps, I thought, it refers to the turnstiles in the Sub, awkwardly pushing against my thighs and ensuring I follow the proper flow of traffic through the register lines.

Whimsy aside, food security actually refers to a body of professions related to ensuring an adequate global food supply. While the world’s population approaches 7 billion alongside an increase in pests, droughts, and fungi, food security experts are busily cooking up research to ameliorate global hunger.

Food service is a popular entrée into the world of work and many Puget Sound students have had a taste. Post-college careers in food are attractive to many people; and why wouldn’t they be? I’m hungry right now, after all. But it’s likely a hunger to understand the complicated system of food that entices the career taste buds of many Puget Sound students.

We rarely think about how that cheeseburger arrived on the plate: with its bacon, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, pickles, onions, and mustard, on a sesame seed bun. What’s funny is the diversity on the plate: that cheeseburger probably represents the United States, if not the United Nations of food. How many people did it take to manufacture, harvest, and distribute the raw ingredients? How much petroleum did it take to get those products from farm to table? Who decides which farms get what subsidies? How do we know that the genetically-modified items are safe to eat? Who decided what ingredients to order? Who cooked, assembled, and served it? Who ensured that when I take the next juicy bite, I won’t contract e. coli?

Grossness aside, food is a complicated but necessary business, and food-related careers—from barista to sustainable farmer—will continue to serve a crucial role as science and technology changes the industry from seed to stomach.

A Puget Sound education provides the academic nourishment necessary to sow the seeds of success in a food-related career. A succulent sampler of foodie fun includes:

  • Food Security: From the fullest plates, like The U.N. Global Food Security Crisis, to the smallest appetizer, like Seattle’s P-Patch Gardens Community Food Security program, there are opportunities at all levels—local to global—to explore careers in food security. These organizations look for diverse academic credentials, from Biology and Botany to Politics and Government to Foreign Languages and International Affairs.
  • Food Service and Hospitality: Innovative chefs, creative caterers, and savvy sommeliers provide the diner with an experience for all five senses. Business leaders manage the successful operations of restaurants, hotels, and food service companies like Columbia Hospitality, Puget Sound’s new foodservice partner. Dining and Conference services posts available part-time jobs as they become available on the job board outside of Career and Employment Services in Howarth Hall, providing a great opportunity to gain career-related experience on-campus.
  • Food Writers and Restaurant Critics: Local columnists like The News Tribune’s Sue Kidd provide their takes on our neighborhood eateries, while big-time reviewers like Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown (whose job I want) travel the world in style to graciously reveal the best places to excite the palate. Get some practice by starting a food blog or reviewing restaurants on Yelp!
  • Farmer: Farming is not just for Old McDonald anymore. From innovations in farm technology, to engineering new equipment, and improving crop yields through soil science, today’s farmer needs more than some water and a hoe. Check out the Washington State Sustainable Food and Farming Network for area farms that may offer opportunities for part-time jobs or internships. Or, connect with Puget Sound alumni at Terra Organics or the Tacoma Farmer’s Market.

There seems to be a limitless cornucopia of food-related careers. In addition to the sampling above, there’s a smorgasbord of options: nutrition, food transportation, animal science, import/export, food borne illnesses, and genetic modification…getting full? There’s plenty of seconds.

Career and Employment Services, located in Howarth 101, can help you to explore the all-you-can-eat buffet of food-related career options. Visit during drop-in hours (2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily) or call to make an appointment with a career advisor at 253-879-3161. Bon appétit!

© 2011 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Ross Mulhausen