Global food systems are in crisis. Nearly a billion people are food insecure, and another billion suffer from diet-related disease. Current systems for producing, distributing, and processing food contribute to climate change, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss. Shortsighted, inequitable and inefficient systems waste a third of agricultural production, and many farming methods undermine the very resources upon which they depend.
And yet, there are bright spots. Many efforts are underway to make food systems more sustainable and equitable. Farmers, researchers, policymakers, citizen advocates, chefs, and many others are at work on solutions: from agroecological farm management, to farm-to-school and farm-to-hospital distribution models, to policies that incentivize healthy, sustainable foods and regulate harmful agricultural chemicals.
The Food Systems minor at UC Berkeley aims to equip undergraduate students with the critical analytical, communication, and practical skills needed to assist in efforts to transform food systems. The capstone course of the Food Systems minor, called Experiential Learning Through Engagement in Food Systems, invites students to collaborate with diverse partners both affiliated and unaffiliated with the University of California: farms, grassroots organizations, businesses, UC Cooperative Extension, research centers, etc.
Projects are individually crafted to meet each student’s interest in food systems. By participating in engaged scholarship, students gain insight into the problems with our current food system, the challenges faced by those who attempt to change it, and the opportunities to overcome these challenges. Through iterative cycles of reflection and action, students develop both their understanding of food systems and their capacity to change them.
This report highlights the accomplishments of the minor over the past three years, and will also identify areas for improvement, both in terms of student learning and outcomes. Specifically, this report explores: (1) The Food Systems Minor Curriculum; (2) The 2018 Food Systems Scholars Program (3) A Curriculum Snapshot of the Minor; and (5) Tensions/Future Directions and Needs of the program. We hope to stimulate a conversation on how to showcase the importance of experiential education and critical thinking around food systems at public institutions of higher education like UC Berkeley.