Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sustainable Food Systems Offers Three New Classes

Tempe based Rio Salado College now offers three new classes for students who dream of becoming a world-renowned cook -- or those who just want to make healthy, sustainable meals at home.

The new classes, including AGS 182 Gardening Practices and Techniques, CUL 113 Commercial Baking Techniques and CUL 105 Principles and Skills for Professional Cooking, provide students with hands-on experience working in Rio Salado’s on-site garden and Café.

The classes are part of the sustainable food systems program led by Director Michael Hodgins and are presented in a hybrid format. Students meet in-person twice a week and complete online assignments on their own schedule.

“I think these classes are a great experience for any students interested in food, gardening or sustainability in general. The classes are structured so that no prior knowledge or experience is needed,” said Hodgins. “Students come out of these classes with knowledge that they can apply to a future job in the industry and to their home lives. They also learn how to complete the food cycle, which includes growing food, preparing food and composting food which goes back into the garden.”

The knowledge and skills needed to maintain an organic kitchen are increasingly in demand as consumers become aware of the benefits of a healthy diet. Not only do organic meals promote a healthy lifestyle for the individual, but learning to recognize and cultivate organic food sources promotes a cultural shift that may contribute to a healthier and more sustainable society.

“I think consumers are seeing an obesity epidemic everywhere they look. Allergies are running rampant, there are schools that don’t even serve peanut butter,” said Hodgins. “Many people are seeing a connection between food and health that I don’t think they were as in tune with 10-20 years ago.”

Although buying your produce at a local farmer’s market can be more expensive than the traditional alternative, it’s worth the elevated price, said Hodgins.

“It is true that food from small scale, sustainable farms is often more expensive than food that is produced in the industrial food system. However, I’d rather pay a little more up front than pay massive medical bills on the back end.”

The Café and Garden @ Rio will host the second annual Food Day Celebration on October 24th from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in partnership with Mesa Community College, Tempe High School and Chipotle. The event will include cooking demonstrations, a farmer’s market, garden tours and more. Students who are interested in these classes or a sustainable food systems certificate can learn more at or