Course Introduction

Get ready to dig in.  This course is an interdisciplinary, applied learning seminar in which you are invited to get your hands dirty working on a real issue associated with our local food system.  Your understanding of the term “food system” will develop over the course of the semester. To start, consider the “food system” as all the steps, components, processes and people involved in the production, consumption and disposal of food.  Many scholars and advocates speak of today’s dominant food system as “broken”:  this term points to the fact that while the industrial food system generates abundant calories, it does so at tremendous harm to the environment and public health; and inequitably distributes nourishment and hunger and control over resources.


The core questions this seminar asks include:

  • How does the food system sustain or undermine human health, the environment, and values such as equity, justice, and democracy?
  • Where and how are change agents transforming components of the food system to improve outcomes?
  • What is the role of private sector entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs in this matter and how can one learn some of the skills to be effective in this regard?
  • And, how can you, as students at UMBC and as “food citizens” of the world, interact with these issues, support ongoing change processes, and become agents of transformation?

My intention with this seminar is that you will collaborate in teams to plan and implement socially beneficial innovations in the local food system, including: supporting the creation of a new farmers market in West Baltimore;  furtherance of a student-initiated microgreen enterprise “True Greens” and EarthBox growing system; identification, recovery and development of market outlets for fruits and vegetables that are currently wasted in the local food chain; development of a community garden for political refugees living in the Arbutus area; and the creation of a “food forest” (or perennial ‘edible landscape’) as part of the UMBC Garden. In addition to providing deliverables on these hands-on projects, students will also study associated issues, including: equitable healthy food access, food security and nutrition, food waste, environmental sustainability. Participants in this seminar will also develop skills associated with project planning and management, collaborating with partners, and advocacy within varied settings (K12, local government, UMBC, community non-profit).






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