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Between Food and Me

Fellow: Alexandra Sullivan  Teachers:  Lauren Loizides and Anna Poole

Course Purpose

The purposes of this course are for students to explore the connections between food and major aspects of our lives (the environment, human health, culture, politics and economics), understand our relationships with food production and consumption, understand the basics of food commodity chains and why they are important, and know why using a geographical lens (highlighting scale, time, space, and place) to study food can be fruitful. 

Course Description

Food, like other basic needs, is often something that we take for granted.  Most of us are disconnected from and have little to no knowledge about the processes that lead to food appearing in stores and outdoor markets.  Food production and consumption, however, have significant relationships with many aspects of our lives.  This ARM highlights these relationships, in particular the environment, human health, and political economy, and asks students to research them.  Understanding and researching these relationships requires an interdisciplinary approach, and so this course involves basic social and natural science skills, as well as description, interpretation, and reflection skills from the humanities

Students begin by defining food, food research and food commodity chains.  Then they investigate food consumption by learning how to determine what nutrients are in food, investigating and re-imaging food labels, comparing food guides from different cultures, and learning about the effects of food environments on our health and rights.  Next they investigate food production by comparing different forms of agriculture (industrial, pre-colonial, colonial, organic, biodynamic, urban).  Then they will explore the flow of money in contemporary U.S. food system and debate human health, environmental, political and economic aspects of school food. The course culminates in a food commodity chain research project where students investigate the commodity chains of two foods, map, analyze, and compare these chains (again, in terms of environmental, human health, political and economic aspects), and then present and reflect on their experiences. 



Course Outline

Unit 1  Introduction to Food Studies and Food Commodity Chains (4 sessions)

Activity 1  Defining and Researching Food

Activity 2  Food Commodity Chains

Activity 3  A Corny Example

Unit 2  Food Consumption (7 sessions, 1 field trip)

Activity 4  Nutrients

Activity 5  Additives and Labels

Activity 6  Food Guides, Food Synergy and Nutrition

Activity 7  Diet and Health

Activity 8  Food Environments

Activity 9  Mapping Food Environments, Demographics and Health

Activity 10  Food Environments Field Trip

Unit 3  Food Production (7 sessions, 3 optional field trips)

Activity 11  Industrial Agriculture

Activity 12  Pre-colonial and Colonial Agriculture

Activity 13 "Sustainable" Agricultures

Unit 4  Food and Money (5 sessions)

Activity 14  Food-related Agencies and Programs of the U.S. Government

Activity 15  Agribusiness and Agricultural Cooperatives

Activity 16  Food Companies and Marketing

Activity 17  School Food Debate

Unit 5  Food Commodity Chain Research Project (4-6 weeks)

Part 1  Commodity Chain Basics

Part 2  Analysis Paper

Part 3  Presentation and Reflection