There’s much more to Italian food than pasta and red sauce, and West Virginia University students will have the opportunity to experience its diversity first hand in a new course, “Mediterranean Food, Culture and Health.”

The three-credit-hour course will include an on-campus component in the Spring 2012 semester and conclude with a 10-day trip to Florence May 28 to June 7. It was developed by Melissa Olfert, an assistant professor of human nutrition and foods and director of the Graduate Dietetic Internship program in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

“This course will provide students with an opportunity to experience one of the most renowned cuisines in the world from a food systems level along with an exploration of dietary patterns and relative health risks,” Olfert said.

In the on-campus portion of the course, students will investigate the food habits, cooking and cultural differences of Mediterranean regions, compare the food systems between Italy and the United States, and evaluate the health benefits of the Mediterranean way of life.

“Last year, in the newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the USDA, the Mediterranean diet composition and health impact was referenced in many of the goals set for Americans,” Olfert said.

In May, the course will travel to Florence to visit places where these foods and wines are grown and produced and observe some of the differences between an industrialized food supply and a more fresh, local, sustainable food supply.

Class size is limited to 15 students. Any graduate student or undergraduate student who has completed an introductory nutrition course is eligible to apply. One eligible prerequisite course is the popular General Education Curriculum offering, Human Nutrition and Foods 171, Introduction to Nutrition.

Total cost for the course is $3,450. Students must pay a deposit of $1,000 by Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. The $2,450 balance must be paid by Friday, March 9, 2012. Given limited course size, interested students must apply for enrollment. Applications can be downloaded at the course’s page on the Office of International Programs web site. Deadline for application is Tuesday, Nov. 29, and should be delivered to Jason Burns in the Office of International Programs, 335 Stansbury Hall.

For more information on the course, please contact Olfert at 304-293-1918 or



CONTACT: Melissa Olfert; Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design

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