SUNY Oswego’s health promotion and wellness department recently began offering nutrition as a minor, opening opportunities for students to focus on a booming field that tries to combat national issues with what people eat and why.

“Obesity has become public enemy No. 1 in public health,” said department chair Sandra Bargainnier. “We talk about exercise as a gateway to good health. Equally important is good nutrition.”

The new minor holds the potential to broaden future employment and graduate school opportunities for students in majors such as wellness management, biology, psychology and more, and appeals to students interested in self-improvement or in coaching others in wellness, Bargainnier said.

While so many people love food, Bargainnier said many don’t understand the chemical, emotional, social, spiritual or even the financial components of nutrition; the new minor equips students with foundational understanding in all of those realms across the human lifespan.

Junior wellness management and biology dual major Brianna Favata has added the nutrition minor. With a career goal as a physician’s assistant, she said, “I always wanted to get into the field of pediatrics, to deal with how children exercise, what they play, what they eat.”

Favata, who received a firsthand look at children’s health issues as she job-shadowed a Fulton doctor, said two of her favorite classes have been “Nutritional Concepts” and “Scientific Foundations of Fitness.” Courses available for the minor are offered in chemistry, health promotion and wellness, and counseling and psychological services.

Among other potential career paths, Bargainnier said, is worksite health—wellness coaching is an emerging demand of companies across the country. “Our students will be the people who help the doctor put into practice what he or she prescribes for obesity,” she said.

Health promotion and wellness faculty member Amy Bidwell coordinates the minor. The department also offers minors in athletic coaching and health science.