Nutrition and Foods

The Plant-Based Nutrition & Sustainable Agriculture Program

The New Plant-Based Nutrition & Sustainable Agriculture Program

Food Choices Affect Our Health and Our Environment

PB Nutri & Sustainable Ag

In collaboration with the Department of Horticulture, the Department of Nutrition and Foods developed the Certificate of Proficiency in Plant-Based Nutrition & Sustainable Agriculture to provide students with the "know-how" to improve overall health and the health of the environment. 

Effects on our Health

  • Americans are facing the dire consequences of poor food and lifestyle choices.

  • 60% of Americans are currently overweight or obese

  • The extra weight leads to chronic diseases (i.e., heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, even certain cancers) that drain people’s physical, emotional, as well as financial well-being.

  • One of the most important choices we make on a daily basis is what we choose to eat.

  • Plants are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients that are shown to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.


Why Here?  Why Now?

Sacramento promotes itself as the farm-to-fork capital.  Top chefs featuring plant-based menu sourced from local farms is becoming the norm. This is happening because people want to eat wholesome foods and want to support a more sustainable sourcing of food.

Bok choy Corn Red Pepper









“Sustainability was ranked #5 by chefs among the top menu trends for 2012, with the narrower category ‘local food’ garnering three of the top five spots, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey.” A third of all chefs at full-service restaurants surveyed (in 2011) by the National Restaurant Association have their own gardens on-site.  The campaign for Meatless Mondays is gaining support for reasons such as less greenhouse effect, more efficient use of land and resources (compared to animal products), and is overall healthier for people.  A 2012 NPR-Truven Health Analytic poll shows that “39% of meat-eating Americans have reduced red meat intake in the past three years…30% of Americans would like to see more vegetarian items on restaurant menus.” The shift from meat to meatless protein sources like nuts, tofu, beans, and legumes leading to a greater demand and consumption of plant-based foods. Forty-two percent of consumers/diners are receptive to eating more food that is sourced sustainably.  These same individuals dine out more often than the general population (18x/month at 6 different restaurants compared to 14x/month).  They are also more health-conscious and valued the health benefits of choosing sustainable food. Now more than ever, people working in the food service industry must be educated on the theory and principles of plant-based nutrition and sustainable agriculture.

People want to eat wholesome foods and want to support a more sustainable sourcing of food.

Career Pathways

Employers value the role that hands-on and field experiences play in educating and training potential employees in the area of the restaurant, agriculture, nutrition, and health education.  The first-hand experience in building and maintaining sustainable agriculture allows students to pursue careers in small farms, school gardens, urban farms, as well as the traditional farms.  The demand for local, seasonal and sustainable agriculture continues to grow.  

The Program is helpful for individuals wanting to pursue careers in nutrition education, farming, urban farming, school nutrition/garden, restaurant or food service industry, and programs with an emphasis on plant-based nutrition and sustainable farm-to-fork campaign.  

Other areas that may benefit from this program include:  Apple on tree

School Garden Instructor

Market gardener/garden or farm manager/farmer

Sustainable agriculture consultant

Researcher/extension agent/farm advisor

Organic sales, marketing, and outreach

Food manufacturer, processing, preparation, handling, packaging

Program Goals and Objectives

Goal:  The Program provides the coursework to master the knowledge and skills in a plant-based nutrition, plant-based food preparation, and sustainable agriculture.  Students will attain and apply the principles of plant-based nutrition to health promotion and prevention of chronic diseases.  In addition, students will make food choices to promote sustainability of our environment. 

Program Objectives: Pike's Market

Upon completion of the Program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate responsibility for personal actions and choices.
  • Communicate effectively both orally and in writing.
  • Relate the dietary causes of chronic diseases.
  • Evaluate the role of plant-based foods on health and the environment.
  • Perform the basic skills, techniques, and procedures in preparing plant-based foods.
  • Demonstrate and apply the theories of sustainable and organic agriculture.
  • Demonstrate a fundamental understanding of soils, soil development, soil building and preparation, and sustainable soil management.
  • Demonstrate a fundamental understanding of hydraulics and irrigation design, installation, and water management principles and practices.
  • Create agriculture design concepts based on sound, sustainable soil management, water conservation, construction and maintenance, and integrated pest management best practices.
  • Schematize the effects of personal food choice on health, the environment, and public policy.
  • Evaluate food through sensory evaluation of texture, taste, color, and presentation.
  • Identify optimal cooking procedures/heat transfer to maximize nutrient content as well as the quality of the ingredients.
  • Analyze quality defects in cooked products and specify possible errors in techniques or ingredient selection.

Program Description & Curriculum  

Description:  The Plant-Based Nutrition & Sustainable Agriculture Certificate Program brings farm-to-fork into the classroom.   It provides the science that supports the benefits of whole plant-based foods to the health of the individual as well as the environment.  Students will gain knowledge in the function of plant-based foods towards the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases.  The program addresses the environment and social concerns with strategies and principles of sustainable agriculture.  Students will master the theories and skills of plant-based food preparation bringing the food to the fork and into everyday food choices. 

Program Requirements

            Semester 1 or 2 (Fall or Spring) 




          NUTRI 303

Plant-Based Nutrition (lecture only)


Semester 1 (Fall




          NUTRI 331

Plant-Based Food Principles and Preparation*


* 2 units lecture and 1 unit lab course

Semester 2 (Spring)




         HORT 313

Sustainable Agriculture*


* 2 units lecture and 1 unit lab course

Optional (Summer):

HORT 498 Work Experience in Horticulture, Summer Semester                  1-4 units

Or AG 498 Work Experience in Agriculture, Summer Semester

The program is three semester-long courses (9 units) with an optional Work Experience summer session that combines the didactic with laboratory/field work for hands-on experience and learning.  Students will gain knowledge and application of plant-based nutrition and sustainable farming.