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.