Graduate college students creator textbook on international agriculture and meals safety


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Everyone eats. However, only some have enough to eat.

That problem is the focus of a new online textbook for undergraduate students titled, “Everyone Needs to Eat: An Introduction to Food Security and Global Agriculture.”

Written by graduate students in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the book is an in-depth examination of the ecological, economic, social, political and technological factors that influence whether a person, community or nation is considered food secure.

“Everyone on Earth is united by a basic need for calories to remain alive,” said Melanie Miller Foster, associate teaching professor of international agriculture and a co-editor of the book. “Unfortunately, there are dramatic differences in food security. While some people have so much food that they can’t eat it fast enough before it rots, others struggle to find their next meal.”

Miller Foster said the impetus for the book was her colleague Noel Habashy, assistant teaching professor and coordinator of the international agriculture minor. He had expressed a need for a textbook with academic rigor that could be used in an introductory course.

The pair said this textbook, which can be accessed for free by anyone in the world, differs from others because it is a living document, meaning scholars from around the globe will update it on an ongoing basis.

Current chapters explore numerous topics, including food deserts, climate change and agriculture, pollinators, food waste, farm workers and labor, gender issues, global agricultural extension, population and health, fair trade, and digital technologies and agriculture.

The book can be accessed at this link.

What also sets the book apart, Habashy said, is how it was developed.

“It is an open pedagogy project — meaning graduate students at Penn State wrote the chapters,” said Habashy, also a co-editor of the book. “These students, who are enrolled in the college’s International Agriculture and Development graduate program, come from countries worldwide and share a wealth of disciplinary backgrounds. They were interested in helping undergraduate students because they have been in their shoes and understand how these students want to learn.”

Laura Rolon, who is pursuing a dual-title degree in food science and in international agriculture and development, authored a chapter on genetically modified organisms, often called GMOs. As a food scientist, she had heard about the debate surrounding GMOs from a scientific perspective. She wanted to learn more about the multiple views in the discussion while providing additional resources for readers.

“I deepened my understanding of GMOs by learning the multiple uses of the technology in agriculture,” she said. “I also engaged with an international organization to learn from its experience in developing GMOs to improve human nutrition. I hope this chapter will empower readers to learn the science and the multiple actors involved in the present GMO debate to form their own opinions.”

In addition to Miller Foster and Habashy, the book’s editors are Deanna Behring, the college’s assistant dean for international programs and director of Ag Sciences Global, and Paul Esker, associate professor of epidemiology and field crop pathology.

The group received a grant through the Affordable Course Transformation program offered through the Open and Affordable Educational Resources Working Group at Penn State.

Penn State University Libraries and the Department of Teaching and Learning with Technology supported the text’s development. This project also was partially funded by the Sally W. Kalin Early Career Librarianship for Learning Innovations.

The college’s Ag Sciences Global program also provided support for the book.


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