Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainable Food Systems


Effective Fall 2014

The “Food Systems Minor” is an interdisciplinary program of study with courses addressing questions of food production, consumption, and policy in relation to the environment, human health, and equity.

Today’s global food system produces unprecedented quantities of food. Nevertheless, the World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people lack adequate food to satisfy the minimum standards of nutrition, despite more than adequate global supplies, a perplexing pattern that has been evident for many years. An even more perplexing pattern is the irony that obesity has become a major health problem for some, even as hunger continues to plague others. Moreover, the modern agricultural system that developed during the past century is increasingly recognized as environmentally unsustainable, in many cases causing environmental degradation and substantial losses in biological diversity. Finally, for the consumers, food safety has emerged as a critical issue and for the producers -- farmers and farm workers -- workplace safety and low compensation threaten the sustainability of their livelihoods.

A global food system that simultaneously produces hunger and obesity, that generates significant collateral environmental degradation and that compromises the well-being of consumer and producer alike, challenges the academic community to engage in serious analysis and action. This challenge has been partially met with the emergence of a new paradigm that emphasizes sustainability and social equity rather than profit and production at its core. Contributions to this new paradigm are emerging from many sectors of society, especially at the grassroots level (e.g., local food systems, increased demand for organic and fair-trade products, reinvigoration of inner cities through urban agriculture, new business models such as “community supported agriculture,” etc.). The university is the ideal place to forge the intellectual foundation that will inform and guide the construction of a coherent path toward a sustainable and equitable food system, which helps to reinvigorate rural and urban communities, promote environmental protection and enhance economies at state, national and international levels.

This minor is intended for students with a keen interest in expanding their study of sustainable and equitable ways to produce and deliver nutritious food so as to improve people’s health and livelihoods. The minor consists of courses analyzing the current food system across a range of disciplines, documenting some of its more unsustainable characteristics and proposing alternatives.

Prerequisites to the Minor:


Requirements for the Minor

The Food Systems Minor consists of no less than 5 courses for a total of at least 15 credits, from the following categories as stated:

  1. Introductory Courses. Select at least one of the following as an orientation to the minor:
    • BIOLOGY 101 / ENVIRON 101, “Food, Energy, and the Environment”
    • ENVIRON 270, “Our Common Future: Ecology, Economics and Ethics of Sustainable Development”
    • ENVIRON 290, “Food: The Ecology, Economics, and Ethics of Growing and Eating”
    • UC 254, “Sophomore Interdisciplinary Seminar” (section titled ‘Much Depends on Dinner’)
  2. Synthetic Courses. Select at least one of the following courses, which synthesize approaches and knowledge bases relevant to the issue, as a conclusion to the minor:
    • ANTHRCUL 458, “Topics in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology” (section titled ‘Food, Politics, and Environment’)
    • ARTDES 300, “Elective Studios” (section titled ‘Sustainable Food System Design’)
    • EEB 498, “The Ecology of Agroecosystems”
    • RCIDIV 316 / EEB 316 / ENVIRON 316, “Introduction to Food Systems”
      RCIDIV 318 / EEB 318 / ENVIRON 318, “Food, Land, and Society”
  3. Topical Courses. Three courses chosen from the following:
    • Any course listed above not used to satisfy the introductory or synthetic course requirement
    • ANTHRBIO 364, “Nutrition and Evolution”
    • ANTHRCUL 458, Topics in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology (section titled Anthropology of Food and Eating’)
    • ARCH 357 / UP 357, “Architecture, Sustainability and the City: Ideas, Forces and People Shaping the Built Environment”
    • BIOLOGY 102, “Practical Botany”
    • CLARCH 382 / CLCIV 382, “Food in the Ancient World: Subsistence and Symbol”
    • CLCIV 382 / CLARCH 382, “Food in the Ancient World: Subsistence and Symbol”
    • EARTH 154, “Ocean Resources”
    • EARTH 159, “Toward a Sustainable Human Future”
    • EARTH 333, “Inexhaustible Seas?: Marine Resources and Environmental Issues”
    • EHS 540, “Maternal and Child Nutrition”
    • EHS 642, “Community Nutrition”
    • ENVIRON 242, Topics in Environmental Social Science
      (section titled2.5 Million Years of Human Foods and Foodways: A Framework for Understanding Modern Diets’)
    • ENVIRON 302, Topics in Environmental Social Science (section titled ‘The Measure of Our Meals’)
    • ENVIRON 390 / RCIDIV 390, “Environmental Activism: Citizenship in a Republic”
    • ENVIRON 421, “Restoration Ecology”
    • HONORS 252, “Honors Natural Sciences Seminar”
      (section titled ‘2.5 Million Years of Human Foods and Foodways: A Framework for Understanding Modern Diets’)
    • NRE 501, “Graduate Experimental” (section titled ‘Urban Agriculture’)
    • NRE 565, “Principles of Transition: Food, Fuel and Finance in a Biophysically Constrained, Ethically Challenged World”
    • RCIDIV 390 / ENVIRON 390, “Environmental Activism: Citizenship in a Republic”
    • UC 370, “UC Special Topics” (section titled ‘The Measure of Our Meals’)
    • UP 357 / ARCH 357, “Architecture, Sustainability and the City: Ideas, Forces and People Shaping the Built Environment”

Related Courses. The Program in the Environment will provide students with a list of “cognate” or related courses that, while not labelled or primarily described as food systems courses, would nonetheless be of keen interest to our minors.

Advising. PitE staff and faculty advisors working in tandem with faculty advisors in other units will help students navigate the Food Systems Minor.

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