Some scholars argue that we have entered a new geological epoch—the “anthropocene”—characterized by unprecedented human alteration of global processes. This fast-paced global change both affects and is affected by agriculture. Concurrent food, energy, water, and climate crises, and a global rise in obesity amidst widespread hunger and undernutrition, have re-focused public attention on the deficiencies and complexities of the global food system. The dominant industrial food system has increasingly well-documented social, ecological, and health-related costs. Yet, a diversity of ‘alternative’ food systems demonstrates that agriculture can be resource conserving, equitable, and health promoting. Increasing food system sustainability requires interdisciplinarity along multiple dimensions: reconnecting agriculture with ecological systems, reshaping food production systems to be more nutrition-sensitive, and ensuring that policies and institutions that impact the food system safeguard social equity and the environment. Linking theory and practice is also essential, involving the diverse range of actors moving food from farm to fork.
It is, therefore, not surprising that demand is growing for interdisciplinary scholars who are equipped to analyze and address the complex challenges of sustainable food production and global food and nutrition security. This course will offer a unique opportunity for students to gain interdisciplinary knowledge of food systems and to integrate theory and practice through experiential learning and dialogue-based inquiry both on campus and in the community. Interdisciplinary research and education require bridging worldviews and recognizing the values implicit in different disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. This course will incorporate multiple perspectives, from the local to the global level, and an understanding of how those perspectives are underpinned by different epistemologies and value systems. That is, this course aims to directly engage with values, exploring how they shape food systems. Benefitting from collaborative interdisciplinary instruction that draws on the expertise of three professors from three different departments at the University of Michigan, students will develop competencies and cognitive skills in the area of food system sustainability including critical and systems thinking, creativity and analytical ability.