Fall 2020 Sustainable Food Systems Courses

Interested in taking a food systems course next semester? See below for a sampling of course offerings for fall semester 2020! 

**Note that you do not need to minor in Food & Environment or pursue a Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems to enroll in these courses**

Undergraduate Food Systems Courses
Undergraduate Food Systems Courses
Graduate Food Systems Courses

UNDERGRADUATE

First Year Seminar: Food & Culture in Asian American Communities | AMCULT 102 (3 credits)

Emily Lawsin, F 10 am – 1  pm

Food, Energy and Environmental Justice | BIOLOGY 101, ENVIRON 101 (4 credits)

John Vandermeer, M/W/F 3 – 4 pm + Discussion
In recent years it has become apparent that current energy and food sourcing is damaging the environment from global warming to pesticide runoff. This course treats the issues of energy, food, and the environment from a biological and sociopolitical point of view. It emphasizes the historical trajectories that generated current conditions and the scientific options for revamping our energy and food systems to make them more consistent with environmental sustainability.

The Genetics of Food | BIOLOGY 121.004 (3 credits)

Regina Baucom, M/W 2:30-4 pm – Not offered Fall 2020

First Year Seminar: African American Foodways | AAS 104.007/AMCULT 103.007 (3 credits)

Jessica Walker F 10 am – 1 pm
This course approaches African American cooking, eating, and serving as political acts. From antebellum innovation, reconstruction cookbooks, and civil rights kitchen counters, food is a compelling lens through which to understand African American cultural expression. This also means it can be a battleground for diverging perspectives on how race, gender, and class inform Black identity. The course is divided into two tactics this community has used to obtain rights. The first deals with the production of more positive images of Black life by embracing ideas of civility, home consciousness, and good nutrition. The second focuses on how African Americans have called for food justice that connects Black agricultural resistance to the modern food movement, making clear the need to understand structural inequality in historical and contemporary calls for food equity.

Ocean Resources | EARTH 154 (3 credits)

Jeffrey Alt, T/Th 1 – 2:30 pm
This course focuses on resources from the ocean and how these are used by and influenced by humans. Two general subject areas are covered: minerals and energy from the oceans, and food resources in the oceans.

Biology of Nutrition | BIOLOGY 105 (4 credits)

Josephine Kurdziel, T/Th 11:30 am – 1 pm
The purpose of this course is to give you a better understanding of your nutritional needs, and of what you can eat and drink to satisfy them. To achieve this purpose, in BIOLOGY 105 you study human physiology to learn what your body needs and why it needs it, and you study sources of food and drink to learn what you can choose to eat and drink to provide your body with what it needs. BIOLOGY 105 addresses nutritional issues of normal, healthy young adults, including weight control, aerobic and strength activities, pregnancy and babies, food additives and food safety, as well as some social issues such as hunger and conservation.

Food and Gender in Asian American Community | WGS 151, AMCULT 102, ASIANPAM 102 (3 credits)

Emily Lawsin, M/W 1-2:30 pm
This first-year seminar introduces students to historical and contemporary issues of Asians in America, through the lens of food and culture. We will examine how foodways often shape gender roles, labor, power dynamics, and Asian American identity. Focusing on, but not limited to, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Indian, and Vietnamese American communities, we will explore how (as acclaimed author Frank Chin puts it) “Food is our only common language.”

The Hispanic World Through Food | SPANISH 232.069 (4 credits)

William McAllister II, M/T/Th/F 4:00- 5:00 pm

Local Food Producers | ANTHRARC 296.002 (3 credits)

Lisa Young, M/W 2:30 – 4 pm
What is the story behind our food? This class explores this question from the perspective of the people who produce our food. You will learn about changes in food production over the last 10,000 years from archaeological and historical case studies, as well as the stories of contemporary farmers. Using an anthropological perspective, we explore contemporary issues of sustainability, food sovereignty, and the role of local food producers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anthropology of Food | ANTHRCUL 254 (4 credits)

Michael McGovern, M/W 11:30AM – 1:00PM
Do you eat to live, or live to eat? If the latter, this course may be for you. As anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss wrote, the plants and animals around us are not just good to eat, they are good to think with and through. Anthropologists study the human condition in all its forms, including how we evolved as a species, how we communicate, how we lived in the historic and prehistoric past, and how we organize our lives in different parts of the world today. In the realm of food, we thus pay close attention to the ways in which humans hunt, fish, gather and grow food, how we get enough calories to survive in differing environments, how food helps us to constitute families, religious identities and other social networks, and even how food comes to be a source and a symptom of social inequality. We will address all of these issues, as well as the symbolic uses and meanings of food in sacred and everyday contexts.

Globalization and its Discontents: Struggles for Food, Water, and Energy | ENVIRON 270, RCIDIV 270 (4 credits)

Ivette Perfecto, M/W/F 9 – 10 am + Discussion
Globalization and its Discontents: Struggles for Food, Water, and Energy — We will examine sustainable development and globalization through the struggles with food and water scarcity and energy justice. Using lectures, films, discussions, and assignments, this course aims to foster critical thinking about how societies are organized, and to evaluate what we can contribute to the pursuit of a sustainable and just biosphere.

Environment and History in Preindustrial Europe | ENVIRON 236 (3 credits)

Paolo Squatriti, T/Th 8:30 – 10 am
Environment and History in Preindustrial Europe — The course surveys human interactions with European environments in ancient, medieval, and early modern times (500 BCE-1750 CE). It presents the ecological dimensions to selected episodes in the economic history of ancient Greece, imperial Rome, medieval Europe, and the Europe of early nation states. It shows that before the “anthropocene” and the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s European people established dynamic relations with their ecosystems that profoundly modified both humans and ecologies.

Exercise, Nutrition and Weight Control | MOVESCI/HF 241 (3 credits)

Peter Bodary, T/Th 1 – 2:30 pm
Study of body mass regulation including the understanding of food, digestion, metabolism and different intervention strategies such as a diet and exercise. Students learn assessment and prescription principles and techniques.

Obesity: The Science, Culture, and Politics of Fatness in America | ALA 264 (3 credits)

Margot Finn M/W 4 – 5:30 pm

We all know obesity is bad for you, or at least we think we do, but how much do you really know about why some people get fat, and others don’t, or what the relationship between obesity and diabetes is, or even how much fatter people are–on average, or in aggregate–in the U.S. compared to other countries, or compared to Americans past? Is weight-loss really just a matter balancing calories-in versus calories-out, or are carbs or high-fat foods (both? or just one or the other?) uniquely fattening? Should we all be eating “keto” or fasting intermittently? Why do some people seem to remain effortlessly thin while others can gain weight even following the strictest diets? Is it true that most diets fail, and what does that mean for our attempts to make people thin, individually or collectively?

The course is divided into three units—the Science, Culture, and Politics of the title. In the first, “Weighing the Evidence,” we will examine what we know about why some people get fat, competing theories about the best way to lose weight, and debates about the medical consequences of fatness. In unit II “Imagining Fatness,” we’ll explore how the meaning of fatness has changed over time, how American attitudes towards fatness contrast with those of other cultures, and how fatness intersects with ideas about gender, class, citizenship, health, and morality. In the last unit, “Policy and Prejudice,” we’ll look at the results of attempts to address the problem of obesity—both those that have sought to make people thinner and those promoting acceptance and fair treatment for fat people.

Plants and People | ENVIRON 262, EARTH 262 (3 credits)

Selena Smith, T/Th 10 – 11:30 am
This course examines the relationship between plants, people, and the environment; focusing on economically important plants. Plants are important for survival, aesthetic, and environmental purposes and have had significant impacts on human history, society, and environment. Today plants are critical for our future. Topics include foods, fibers, drugs, and ornamentals.

Plants and Human Health | BIOLOGY 212 (3 credits)

Yin-Long Qiu, M/W 4 – 5:30 pm
In recent decades, our society has generated renewed interests in plants for our needs to have a balanced diet, a more natural approach to medicine, a clean environment, and an overall healthy lifestyle. Plants are integral components of formulas to meet these needs. In this course, students will learn basic botany, human use of plants as food and medicine, and the important relationship between environment and human health. Active participation by students in class discussion and on field trips is required after they read materials in a textbook, research articles, and investigate online sources outside the classroom. A self-designed course project stimulates independent and active thinking, and helps students learn in a relaxed environment at self-controlled pace.

Intro to Conservation of Biological Diversity | ENVIRON 317 (3 credits)

Johannes Foufopolous, T/Th 12 – 1 pm
Overview of historic and present-day causes of species extinction, and of biological principles central to species conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems. Topics covered include episodes of extinction and diversification over earth history; geographic distribution strategies; and sustainable use of ecosystems. Weekly recitation sections discuss material from lectures, assigned readings and films, and perform computer and gaming simulations.

Architecture, Sustainability and the City | ARCH/UP 357 (3 credits)

Staff , T/Th 9 – 10 am
Architecture, Sustainability and the City: Ideas, Forces and People Shaping the Built Environment — An introduction to the design of the build environment, society’s largest investment and biggest consumer of energy, the course’s focus will range from the room to the building to the city to the metropolis, including spaces and places that are consciously planned and intentionally designed, as well as ones that are vernacular and organic. In addition to the fundamentals, history, theory and practice of design and urban planning, case studies of buildings and cities of different periods and cultures will be presented to deepen the student’s understanding of the environmental, economic, socioculture and aesthetic impacts of architecture and urbanism. Contemporary problems and opportunities in sustainable building and community design will be considered, including energy and water conservation, waste management and recycling. Livability, walkability, bikeability and transit, as well as the importance of a vibrant and diverse public realm, will also be studied.

Inexhaustible Seas? | EARTH 333, ENVIRON 333 (4 credits)

Ingrid Hendy, M/W 1-2:30 + Discussion
This course explores the mineral, energy and food resources of the ocean and environmental impacts that arise from the exploitation of these resources. We discuss conflicts in our competing uses of the ocean and its resources. We also examine both the popular and scientific literature surrounding these issues.

The Measure of Our Meals: Food Studies Research Methods | ALA 370.002 (3 credits)

Margot Finn, M/W 1 – 2:30 pm
In this course, we explore the cross-disciplinary methods used to study food. We use Life cycle analysis to measure the differences between conventional and alternative production systems. We use ethnography to explore different cooking and eating practices and their cultural significance. We perform close readings to understand the attitudes towards food revealed by advertisements, television shows, and films. Lastly, we explore the different methods used by historians to understand the development of ancient cuisines and GMOs.

Chinese Food in Crisis: Health, Ecology, and Identity in an Age of Globalization | ASIAN 351, ENVIRON 351, INTLSTD 351 (3 credits)

Miranda Brown, M/W 2:30 – 4 pm
This course looks at the role that culinary globalization has played in reshaping the Chinese diet, along with its implications for health, the environment, and political identity.

Topics in English Lang&Lit: Food and Culture | ENGLISH 407 (3 credits)

Supriya Nair, M/W 11:30 – 1 pm
“Tell me what kind of food you eat, and I will tell you what kind of man you are,” is an oft-quoted declaration by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, famous eighteenth-century French epicure. While this course does not promise grand revelations, we will nevertheless explore how food—its production, consumption, history, culture, pathways—so powerfully influences our sense of ethnic, communal, familial, physiological, and personal identities. This course is not only literary, although we will be reading short and long fiction on food cultures and practices. The essential requirements of an English course (thoughtful analysis, critical thinking, clear writing, and articulate speech) apply, but some of the readings will be interdisciplinary, theoretical, and cross-cultural. Students will be encouraged to pursue additional, independent research into the cultures of food not just in literature but from macro-level geopolitics to micro-level impacts. Assignments include reading quizzes, a few online Canvas posts, a couple of short essays and food blogs, and a final 6-7 pp. essay on a food-related topic of your choice. Required texts listed on Wolverine.

Environmental Rights, Justice & Law | ENVIRON 462.006 (3 credits)

Noah Hall, M 11:30 – 2
This course explores how our current legal system contributes to environmental problems and solutions. Through a series of case studies, we will first understand how the legal system builds on conceptions of individuality, property, sovereignty, and commodification to create environmental destruction and injustice. The case studies include the degradation of the Colorado River over the past century, the future of the Arctic region under climate change in the next century, and the present and ongoing taking of human life in the Flint water crisis. We will then explore alternative approaches to environmental law, including natural rights, community stewardship, and human rights protected under the Constitution. While the course does not provide a detailed survey of U.S. environmental law, it teaches the fundamental concepts of environmental law and the U.S. legal system to understand both the status quo and need for change. Students will gain a deep and conceptual understanding of modern environmental law — the values and assumptions it’s based upon, how it works (or doesn’t work) in various settings, and what must be changed for the law to play its needed role in making a more just and sustainable society.

Campus Farm Practicum | ENVIRON 465 (3 units)

Jeremy Moghtader, W 2 – 5 pm
This course offers hands-on understanding and foundational skill-building in the principles and practices of ecological and organic farming. Based at the UM Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, students will meet weekly for lecture and farm walk (field-based lecture) exploring both the theory and practices associated with organic and ecological farming, including soil management, cover cropping, pest, weed and disease management, season extension with passive solar hoophouses, harvest and post-harvest handling, organic and food safety certification, farmscaping for ecosystem services, and the basics of sales and small farm business management.

Agroecosystems | EEB 498 (3 credits)

John Vandermeer, T/Th 2:30 – 4 pm
An analysis of ecological principles as they apply to agricultural ecosystems, emphasizing theoretical aspects but also covering empirical results of critical experiments. While the emphasis is on principles, practical applicability is also explored where appropriate. Physical, biological, and social forces are integrated as necessary. Designed as preparation for active research in agroecosystem ecology.

Soil Ecology | ENVIRON 430, EEB 489, EAS 430 (3 credits)

Donald Zak, M/W 10 – 11 am + Lab
Soils as central components of terrestrial ecosystems. Major emphasis is placed on physical, chemical, and biological properties and their relationships to plant growth and ecosystem processes. Understanding is developed using a combination of lectures, field- and lab-based exercises, and individual research.

Localization: Transitional Thinking for the New Normal | EAS 564.001, ENVIRON 462.002 (3 credits)

Raymond De Young, Thomas Princen, W 5:30 – 8 pm
However vast were the resources used to create industrial civilization, they were never limitless. Biophysical constraints, always a part of human existence, could be ignored for these past few centuries, a one-time era of resource abundance. This is no longer possible. We can accept that transition to a different live pattern is inevitable, but the form of our response is not preordained. The course develops one plausible response called localization. It focuses on place-based living within the limits of nearby natural systems. The course covers the drivers of localization and examples in practice. It also introduces the philosophies of localization and the tools needed to make the transition peaceful, democratic, just and resilient.

Restoration Ecology | EAS 501.119, ENVIRON 421 (3 credits)

Sara Adlerstein-Gonzalez, M/W 2:30 – 4 pm + Lab
This course offers an introduction to the science, policy, and social issues around ecological restoration and explores where local agriculture fits in the larger context of restoration. We examine and discuss a multitude of restoration projects – urban, rural, and natural areas – through the use of case studies, field trips, and guest lectures from local practitioners of restoration ecology. Field trips to local restoration sites will include field exercises to learn how to collect data for site inventory, monitoring, and assessing restoration success.

 

GRADUATE

Diverse Farming Systems: Theory and Practice | EAS 553 (3 credits)

Ivette Perfecto, M/W 1-2:30 PM + Lab
In this interdisciplinary course, we will critically explore an intersecting literature on agroecology, biodiversity, ecosystem services, diversified farming systems, agroforestry, and farmers’ livelihoods. The first part of the course will focus on the application of ecological theory to the study of diverse farming systems including intercropping and agroforestry. The second part will emphasize biodiversity both in terms of how agricultural landscapes affect biodiversity and how biodiversity contributes to the sustainability, productivity and resilience of agroecosystems and farming communities. The last part of the course will cover some of the most salient social issues in diverse farming systems, such as tree and land tenure and gender issues as well as the social rural movements that promote diverse farming systems and agroecology.

Global Food Systems Policy | NUTR 644 (3 credits)

Andrew Jones, T/Th 3 – 4:30 PM
This course will explore the process of developing policies in low- and middle-income countries that are targeted at altering the nature and functioning of food systems. We will assess policy contexts, stakeholders’ priorities, the translation of policies into programs, and the impacts of policies on nutrition and health outcomes.

Evolutionary Nutrition: Implications for Human Health | NUTR 610 (2 credits)

Edward Ruiz-Narvaez, M 10 am – 12 pm
Dietary and cultural shifts/innovations (for example, cooking, domestication of plants and animals) during human origins may have acted as evolutionary forces shaping the physiology and metabolism as well as the genome of early humans. Exposure to modern diets may result in a mismatch of old adaptations to a new environment, potentially leading to so-called “diseases of civilization” such as hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. In this course, we will discuss human nutrition from an evolutionary perspective. We will critically review scientific theories (e.g. thrifty gene hypothesis) explaining how mismatch between old adaptations and modern diets affect human health. This evolutionary analysis may shed new light on the epidemics of “diseases of civilization” and may help to inform public health interventions. Students are expected to be very active participants of class discussions.

Localization: Transitional Thinking for the New Normal | EAS 564.001, ENVIRON 462.002 (3 credits)

Raymond De Young, Thomas Princen, W 5:30 – 8 pm
However vast were the resources used to create industrial civilization, they were never limitless. Biophysical constraints, always a part of human existence, could be ignored for these past few centuries, a one-time era of resource abundance. This is no longer possible. We can accept that transition to a different live pattern is inevitable, but the form of our response is not preordained. The course develops one plausible response called localization. It focuses on place-based living within the limits of nearby natural systems. The course covers the drivers of localization and examples in practice. It also introduces the philosophies of localization and the tools needed to make the transition peaceful, democratic, just and resilient.

Agroecosystems | EEB 498 (3 credits)

John Vandermeer, T/Th 2:30 – 4 pm
An analysis of ecological principles as they apply to agricultural ecosystems, emphasizing theoretical aspects but also covering empirical results of critical experiments. While the emphasis is on principles, practical applicability is also explored where appropriate. Physical, biological, and social forces are integrated as necessary. Designed as preparation for active research in agroecosystem ecology.

Restoration Ecology | EAS 501.119, ENVIRON 421 (3 credits)

Sara Adlerstein-Gonzalez, M/W 2:30 – 4 pm + Lab
This course offers an introduction to the science, policy, and social issues around ecological restoration and explores where local agriculture fits in the larger context of restoration. We examine and discuss a multitude of restoration projects – urban, rural, and natural areas – through the use of case studies, field trips, and guest lectures from local practitioners of restoration ecology. Field trips to local restoration sites will include field exercises to learn how to collect data for site inventory, monitoring, and assessing restoration success.

Food Security, Policy, and Programs | NUTR 593 (3 credits)

Cindy Leung, Th 7-8:30 pm every other week
This course is a critical exploration of the health issues related to domestic food security, food policy, and food programs, with a focus on maternal and child health. We will examine the array of negative health outcomes associated with food insecurity, discuss potential mechanisms underlying these associations, how food policy is made, the intersection of food policy with public health nutrition, and the influence of federal food assistance programs on diet-related outcomes for children and families.

Nutrition and Public Health | PUBHLTH 511.555 (2 credits)

Karen Peterson and Cindy Leung, W 7- 8:30 pm (4 weeks)
Introduce MPH students to important topics in nutrition and public health, program planning and program evaluation. This course is an introductory course to nutrition research and will cover topics, such as healthful diet patterns, methods of dietary assessment, nutritional epidemiology, nutrition through the life cycle, and nutritional needs of diverse populations. This course will have a hybrid style (online and in-class) of instruction.

Soil Ecology | ENVIRON 430, EEB 489, EAS 430 (3 credits)

Donald Zak, M/W 10 – 11 am + Lab
Soils as central components of terrestrial ecosystems. Major emphasis is placed on physical, chemical, and biological properties and their relationships to plant growth and ecosystem processes. Understanding is developed using a combination of lectures, field- and lab-based exercises, and individual research.

Renewable Energy at the State & Local Level | PUBPOL 750.006 (3 credits)

Sarah Mills T/Th 4-5:20 pm
This course considers the range of state and local policies that impact renewable energy development, understanding how these policies interact and the politics at play behind their adoption. In recognizing that rural communities–and agricultural lands, in particular–are often sought as sites for wind and solar projects, we spend much of our time thinking about the impacts that renewable energy power plants have on farming communities and how policies and politics play out in these communities.

Healthy and sustainable foods and products – Life Cycle Assessment | EHS 672 (3 credits)

Olivier Jolliet T/Th 8:30-10:00am, flexible since remote teaching prepared with a designer
– How can one hot dog leads to 35 minutes of healthy life lost?
– How environmentally friendly is popcorn as a packaging material?
– How far should we feel responsible for particulate matter in China associated to traded goods?
– How can I assess the impacts of the chemicals in 100,000 products on the shelves of my supermarket?
To learn how to answer these questions, we offer you this fall this course (EHS 672), on the use of life cycle assessment as a tool towards healthy and sustainable foods and products. It addresses the sharply rising demand from US consumers and companies to provide reliable tools to assess and reduce impacts of consumption on health and the environment.