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Class Time: Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00 AM – 12:45 PM, July 1 – August 7
Dr. Jacob Lahne
Office: 354 Carrigan Wing, Marsh Life Sciences
Office Hours: By Appointment
Daily, we eat food, but most of us know very little about the vast system of agricultural
production, food processing, distribution, retailing, labeling, and catering that influences each
and every individual food choice we make. Neither do we understand the forces influencing this
chain of production from farm to table: cultural, political, economic. In this course, we will
explore the structure and function of the contemporary food system, and compare it to some
alternative historical models. We’ll then ask: how did this system develop? What problems was
it trying to solve? What unintended consequences flow from this current food system? What
are the ways that actors can and do challenge this food system? This course will introduce
students to our contemporary food system and the broad, interdisciplinary type of thinking
required to make sense of it.
Grasp the fundamentals of systems thinking and apply such an approach to food production
Identify the components of the contemporary food system and their relationships
Understand how the modern food system is the result of historical systems
Explore the nature and consequences of industrialization and globalization for the
development and form of the modern food system
Understand how individual food-choice decisions are shaped, guided, and curtailed by social
systems in intended and unintended ways
Develop critical thinking and writing skills
You will notice immediately that this course asks you to read significant quantities; these
readings are for the most part meant for a broad audience, and so are quite easy to read and
engaging. Two required books are available at the UVM Bookstore and on reserve at the
Kitchen Literacy, (2010). Ann Vileisis.
Consumed, (2013). Sarah Elton.
A significant number of readings will be placed on Blackboard from a number of sources; they
are marked in the schedule with a (B) for Blackboard. These are an integral part of the course
and you will not be able to do well in the course without reading them.
COURSE FORMAT & EVALUATION
This course will include discussions, in-class group activities, and films – as well as lectures. All
readings and assignments assigned for a particular date should be completed by the beginning
of class. In addition, readings and assignments should be completed thoughtfully and carefully
so that you will be ready to pose interesting questions, engage with others’ ideas, or offer your
own reflections. It also means being aware of class dynamics, so that you push yourself to talk if
you are shy, and restrict yourself to your more profound insights if you tend to dominate the
■ All readings must be read completely before class. I will be leading class discussions and
organizing in-class activities as much or more as I will be presenting lectures. We will have
much better and more meaningful discussions if everyone comes in prepared. If you don’t
understand a reading, bring in a list of questions – we can use them to begin a discussion.
■ Blackboard: This class will have a course site on Blackboard, which will have the syllabus, all
additional readings for the course, and all assignments, including rubrics and other elements.
Additional resources will also be placed on the Blackboard site, and all updates will be posted
there. Students are responsible for the contents of Blackboard course site. You will use the
Blackboard site to download and submit assignments unless otherwise noted.
■ Assignment Format: All out-of-class writing assignments are due on Blackboard unless
otherwise specified. Specifically, assignments will be turned in through the “Short Essays”
course area of the Blackboard Site. Emailed work is not accepted, unless specified in the
assignment. These assignments should be submitted typed, in 12-point Times font, double-
spaced, with 1” margins, in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format. Assignments are due the day assigned on
the syllabus, by 11:59 PM.
■ Late Assignments. I do not accept late assignments without prior explanation. If you hand in
an assignment late, you will be marked down five points for every day the assignment is
■ Academic integrity. All assignments need to satisfy the standards of academic integrity.
Plagiarism (not attributing other people’s ideas, arguments or phrases properly) and cheating
will result in a failing grade.
■ Point Distributions (details posted on Blackboard)
Participation 40 points
This item measures the caliber and regularity of your participation in class, via in-class
responses and in-class exercises, as well as engagement through questions, emails to me
outside of class, etc. This includes in-class debates, discussions, group- and pair-work, and
your general presence. You will write short responses to prompts and questions I pose during
class, and turn them in at the end of the class period. These are opportunities for you to
engage in dialogue, voice concerns, ask clarifying questions. I read and may respond via email
or by raising issues in class. Note that habitually texting or surfing the internet during class
are sure ways to lose these points.
Attendance 40 points
This course only meets 12 times; you cannot hope to learn well if you are not in class. If you
miss more than one (1) class without prior explanation or a documented emergency, you will
lose participation credit, which is equivalent to a full letter grade.
Short Response Papers 160 points
You will be asked to write eight (8) 250-350 word papers in response to a critical prompt.
These papers will all be based on making an argument using clear and precise language and
supporting your argument using specific examples from lecture and readings. You will be
asked to answer the question by taking a principled stand for or against the position.
For the bulk of the class, a paper will be due every session. Because of the unique opportunity
our long class periods afford us, we will frequently work in groups or pairs to prepare
arguments and outlines for the next paper during class.
Reading Annotations 40 points
During the course you will be asked to annotate and help facilitate class discussion of one set
of course readings. You will take notes on and offer interpretation of the readings that will
help you and your fellow students to understand the important points of the readings and their
relationship to the course subject matter and objectives.
Writing Reflections 20 points
At the beginning, middle, and end of the course you will be given the opportunity to reflect on
yourselves as critical writers and thinkers. This reflection exercise will help you see what you
have accomplished and what areas are left to work on.
Final Exam 100 points
The final exam will have three parts: definition of key terms, short answer, synthetic essays.
You will be able to use your short papers as part of the final exam. There will be opportunities
to discuss the final exam and to prepare outlines and approaches in order to best answer the
questions in class.
Total: 400 points
Extra Credit Opportunities
Food Systems Lectures and News (Max 15 points)
Extra Credit: You can earn five (5) points of extra credit by posting an analytic commentary of
at least one paragraph on the course discussion board about the following: 1) a newspaper or
journal article relating to the food system in the popular media or 2) an event (lecture,
conference) you attend that involves the food system. You must explicitly address our
definition of the food system in your analysis. This extra-credit opportunity can be completed
After the last (8
) essay has been returned to you and graded, you may rewrite and submit the
essay on which you received the lowest grade; it will be re-graded and you will have the
opportunity of earning anything up to a perfect (20 point) score. However, essays that were
never submitted can not be resubmitted, and points lost for late submission cannot be re-
COURSE POLICIES & EXPECTATIONS
All students who receive a copy of this syllabus and remain enrolled in the course are implicitly
agreeing to its terms, and responsible for its contents.
■ Classroom conduct: I treat students respectfully and I ask that students do the same. If you
are in the classroom, you are expected to behave respectfully to the instructor and the other
students, which includes the following:
No texting or reading texts your phone might receive
No sleeping, doing other homework, or talking excessively with your neighbors
Arriving on time and staying until the end of class, unless arranged with us
No computers, tablets, or phones during discussion and lecture; I will work to accommodate
individuals’ note-taking needs
These guidelines define “disruption”, according to my classroom policies and by the University’s
code of conduct. For a first offense, you will receive a warning; for a second, you may be
required to leave the classroom. A third offense may warrant a potentially lowered grade by the
loss of participation points.
At the same time, I understand that this class is quite long; we will take several 10 minute breaks
during the class to regenerate attention spans, stretch legs, use the bathroom, get snacks, etc.
Whenever we take breaks, I will let you know when I expect you to return. Please act
responsibly and treat these time limits seriously.
■ Attendance and Performance:
I expect professional standards of behavior in the classroom. As implied above, electronic
devices should be on vibrate or turned off. Chronic tardiness is not acceptable and will take
points from your class participation and attendance.
I expect regular attendance in class. I will periodically take attendance as well as keep track
through in-class activities. Each documented absence will take points away from class
participation and attendance; if you are documented with more than one (1) unexcused absence
you will get “0” points for class attendance, and further absences may result in reduced
participation credit as well.
I expect participation in small group discussions from every student. This class is organized to
promote dialogue and interaction, and the small size of the summer section gives us a unique
opportunity to get to know each other and have productive and lively discussions. Seize the
day. When you are working in a pair or group you need to participate. During in-class group
work I will circulate to answer questions and make sure there is full participation. I intend to
have conversations during class and will call on people during lectures as well.
■ Communication with Instructor: It is students’ responsibility to communicate proactively
about any problems they are experiencing, either in the course or in general. Letting me know
about challenges you are facing promptly is important, because generally I will not waive a
course requirement or offer additional extra credit opportunities at the end. It is in your interest
to communicate with me about matters that affect your performance in class, and to seek help
for challenges you may face. You may also ask a Dean or other school staff to communicate
with me about any challenges. I am happy to work with you – I understand that we all have real
lives involving work responsibilities, illness, death, and other challenges – but only if you
proactively communicate with me.
■ Email: Students are required to check their UVM email accounts regularly for communication
about the course; I will make announcements and changes via email and the Blackboard course
site. If you are not in the habit of checking your UVM account or looking at the Blackboard
course site, you will miss information for which you are still responsible. I also encourage you to
email me with questions or thoughts which you did not bring up in class. Because of the nature
of the summer session, I will not have regularly scheduled office hours, and so it is also your
responsibility to speak or email with me to arrange any meetings outside of class – I am happy
to make time for you.
■ Late work: As stated above, all work is due through this course’s Blackboard site unless
otherwise specified in the assignment. Work not handed in during class on the due date is
considered late. It will be penalized 3% off per day that it is late. The final exam cannot be
made up except in case of dire emergencies, which can be and are documented, subject to my
approval. In such a case, the student should contact me within 24 hours of the scheduled exam
or exam due-date, unless it is physically impossible to do so, in which case the student should
be prepared to document that impossibility.
■ Academic Integrity: While this course will cover appropriate use of sources, and thus
eliminate the likelihood of unintentional plagiarism, you are ultimately responsible for choosing
to abide by the standards of the scholastic community. Plagiarism (not properly attributing
other people’s ideas, arguments or phrases) and cheating (using other’s work or bringing notes
when they are not allowed) are serious violations. Students should be familiar with and take
seriously the Academic Honesty policy of the University. Because I am communicating this
expectation, ignorance of the policy cannot be justified and offenses will be penalized, as
according to the University policy. Penalties start at a failing grade for the assignment, and
could result in a permanent record.
■ Accommodations: ACCESS students should give me documentation regarding the
accommodations to which you are entitled as soon as possible, and set up a time to discuss the
course format in relationship to your needs. Scheduling exams in the ACCESS office should be
completed early in the term.
■ Religious Holidays: UVM recognizes some but not all of the holidays practiced by the
world’s religions. Students have a right to practice the religion of their choice. If your holiday is
not observed by UVM and you require missing class or work in order to observe a religious
holiday, please submit your need in writing by the third meeting of class.
■ Additional Policies: Anything not covered in this syllabus will be handled in accordance with
University policies, or at the discretion of the chair of the Nutrition and Food Sciences
Date Topic Reading Assignments/Activity
Week 1 – Introduction to the Course & Roots of the Food System
July 1 Intro to the Course
What is a Food System?
Values of the Food System
Ingredients of the Food
A History of Food (B)
Initial Writing Reflection
July 3 The Columbian Exchange:
Plants and Animals
The Beginning of a
Modern Food System
Maize: Gift from America’s
First Peoples (B)
Adaptability – The West
How the Potato Changed
the World (B)
Week 2 – Industrialization Part I
July 8 Intro to Industrialization
Processing and Retailing
Kitchen Literacy Ch 1-3
A History of Salt in
July 10 Cooking and Consumption
Kitchen Literacy Ch 4
The Robinsons of Rokeby
– Four Seasons (B)
and its effects on
Week 3 – Industrialization Part II
July 15 Case Studies
Fermentation to Canning
Kitchen Literacy Ch 6
Pollan, The Omnivore’s
Wilson, Consider the Fork
Katz, The Art of
“Out to Pasture” short film
July 17 From Industrialization to
Kitchen Literacy Ch 7 & 8
Robbins, Culture of
Viewing and Discussion of
Week 4 – Globalization Part I
July 22 Intro to Globalization:
How is this the same?
How is this different?
The Hungry Planet
The Nutrition Transition
Popkin, The World is Fat
Patel, Stuffed & Starved
Consumed Ch 1&2
The Hungry Planet
July 24 Creating the global meal
School lunch from a
Who eats what, where,
Consumed Ch 3-6
Poppendieck, Food Fight
“Jamie Oliver’s School
Week 5 – Globalization Part II
July 29 What is “power”?
Who wins and loses in
What is the purpose of the
Consumed Ch 7 & 8
Patel, Stuffed & Starved
Ch 5 (B)
The Atlas of Food
July 31 Globalization case studies:
Seeds and poisons
Consumed Ch 9 & 10
Patel, Stuffed & Starved,
Ch 6 (B)
Coffee Culture I (B)
Week 6 – Resistance and Change in the Food System
August 5 Alternative Food Chains:
Consumed, Ch 11-14
Coffee Culture II (B)
Final Writing Reflection
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