Course Syllabus

Sustainable Food: Consumption and Production A     DRAFT

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

4 credits

Study Tours:


Major Disciplines:

Environmental Studies, Public Policy, Sustainability



Faculty Members:

Morten Hedegaard Larsen

Program Contact:

Embla Thorsdottir

Time & Place:


Course Description

Sustainable change in our food production and consumption is possible, and this course will provide students with knowledge, insights and experiences that will provide concrete tools to help understand and make these changes. 
In this course we will try and make sense of what a sustainable food system looks like now and in the near future. We will investigate different initiatives, technologies and organizations that make our production and consumption of food more sustainable, as well as laying bare the many practices that are currently unsustainable.

The  course, therefore, focuses on concrete and innovative solutions that reshape our connection to food consumption and production. These solutions recognize and address the environmental and social impacts of food. Critical questions include: What is the true cost of food? How can we achieve more sustainable diets and inclusive food systems while producing less waste? How can individuals and organizations alike make a difference to our food systems? What do pioneering restaurants, farmers and food entrepreneurs teach us? How do cities help shape more sustainable food practices?

Eating is an agricultural act, farmer and food writer Wendel Berry so accurately reminds us. 
This statement has become even more potent with the many possible food challenges the world faces due to climate change as well as sustainability issues relating to the way we produce, store, distribute, sell and enjoy food as consumers ultimately. The global food system is extremely complex and the ways to ensure that it will become more sustainable are myriad and dependent on many different factors beyond production/farming but also relates to specific political, socio-economic and cultural issues. The “Arab Spring”, for instance, was directly correlated to high food prices in the region- we might be only seven meals away from anarchy! This means that the policies framing our food systems carry an immense importance, and this course will try and lay bare some of most important structural issues and policies guiding our food systems both nationally and internationally. 

Denmark has over the last three decades gone through great changes in the way food is produced, consumed, and for many consumers a new awareness about sustainable issues has taken hold as the risks and challenges of food production in the “Anthropocene age” becomes more visible. One of the most important phenomena to have changed the production and consumption of food is the “organic revolution” which means that 10% of all foods sold are now organic in Denmark.

Our week-long study trip will take us to Torino (Turin) Italy's forth largest city. Turin has historically been a large manufacturers hub (cars predominantly), but as the the fortunes of Italian manufacturing took a downturn in the late nineties, Turin has had to re-invent itself- and it has! Today it has installed ambitions urban food policies working together with a growing number of alternative food networks and NGO’s to make procurement and consumption of foods more sustainable, including participation in a large EC funded food research project FUSILI. Most prominently it hosts the bi-annual global sustainable food event Terra Del Madre and the Piemonte region is also the ‘birth-place’ of the Slow Food Movement

Topics for course sessions could include: 

Organic production, consumption and history
Urban Gardening and hydroponics
Vegetarianism and veganism
Everyday sustainable practices and dilemmas of food consumers- Practice Theory
Sustainable Food Innovation (in collaboration with Kitchen Collective- an open innovation hub for gastronomic entrepreneurs). 
Masculinity and green food transitions?
New Nordic Cuisine and Diet 
Food Consumption and Identity
Risk Society and food in the Anthropocene
New Technologies and their meanings (GMO, Drones). 
What is sustainable food systems and foods? Different socio-technical experiences. 
Power and Change: Food movements and political structures - challenges and opportunities for sustainable development.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- Identify and map up the global challenges of sustainable food production and consumption

- Define sustainable food production and consumption from multiple perspectives

- Understand the complexity of national and global food systems and its main actors and organizations

- Engage in critical discussions regarding sustainable food initiatives

- Analyse different food consumption and production practices

- Draw up tentative solutions to selected sustainable food issues on the basis of theory and hands-on experiences


 Morten Hedegaard Larsen holds a PhD in Food Studies/Sociology (2016 Planning and Development, Aalborg University) and has published papers on food myths, agricultural experiences and social factors to explain obesity, for instance. Originally he holds a MA in Communication Studies from Roskilde University (2010). He wrote master thesis on the development of the Western Food Market. For the last five years Morten has held positions as assistant professor and post.doc at Aalborg University and Copenhagen University. There he acted as lecturer, coordinator and developer at the masters program Integrated Food Studies and taught courses on communication, staging and consumption of food, innovation and entrepreneurship, food concept design and sustainable food systems. In recent years he has also been involved in food innovation and food start-up research projects. Morten was, also, the first communications officer for the largest Danish food hall "TorvehallerneKBH". With DIS since 2021.


Selected Readings from the course:

Carolan, M 2016 The Sociology of Food and Agriculture. Earthscan Routledge 2nd edition. 348 sider. ISBN 978-1-138-94624-8 (Selected Chapters)

Geels FW (2004) Understanding system innovations: A critical literature review and a conceptual synthesis. I: Elzen B, Geels FW, and Green K (eds) System Innovation and the Transition to Sustainability: Theory, Evidence and Policy, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 19–47.

J. Lassen, P. Sandøe, B. Forkman Happy pigs are dirty! – conflicting perspectives on animal welfare,

Marsden, T. and Morley, A. (ed.) 2014: Sustainable Food Systems. Building a new paradigm. Earthscan Routledge. 230 sider. ISBN 978-0-415-63954-5

Mintz S. (1985) Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking

Steffen et al. (2015) Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science Vol. 347 no. 6223

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017) World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248.

Willet et al (2019) Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet 393(10170). 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4

Wright, Caroline (2009) Fairtrade food: connecting producers and consumers, i The Globalization of Food, edited by D. Inglis and D. Gimlin, Berg, Oxford.


Field Studies

Possible Visits: 

Field Study 1 - New Local Sustainable Consumption 
Fangst, Absalon, food-coop

Field Study 2 - New Technologies and Heritage Values
Hydroponic Taastrup and/or Årstiderne

Field Study 3 - Power and Policies
Copenhagen Municipality and Parliament

Guest Lecturers

Lecture on "Food Systems Innovation and Change" by Associate professor and head of the Masters Program Integrated Food Studies at Copenhegan University Mette Weinreich Hansen
This session will provide students with insights into how large-scale changes take place in global and national food systems, with many interesting case-studies.


Approach to Teaching

The methods used to cover class materials include lectures, videos, discussions, individual and group presentations, guest lectures, and field trips. Periodically we will split up into smaller groups to review and analyze the material more thoroughly. The course will have several out-of-the-class-room sessions on location to experience the different facets of food first hand. Students are expected to be able to find and be at the external locations on time. The external locations will not be far from DIS's location and maps and addresses will be given in advance. Office hours are held after class or by appointment. 

Expectations of the Students

I expect you to attend all class sessions unless prevented by an emergency. If you are not in class, you cannot participate. I expect you to complete all the assigned reading and come to class prepared to discuss it in depth. I expect you to turn in assignments on time.

Students are not allowed to use a laptop or smartphone in class. Considerations will, of course, be taken if you have special needs for a computer for note-taking. Please speak to the Office of Academic Support to request accommodations.

All students are expected to have completed the course readings before class so that we can discuss the material at the right level. It is important to be well prepared for class because I may randomly select students to give key points on the readings for that day.

Students are expected to participate actively in all classes and field studies and be open-minded to their fellow student’s contributions to the class. The aim is to establish an environment where we can learn from each other as well as from the texts and cases we engage with, and you are expected to actively support this approach.



Change and Food Sustainability in ‘Real Life’ - Presentation and upload

Students are provided a public/private food practice that involves a food product and/or a service. The task is to use literature concerning food and identity, food in everyday life, food cultural preferences, technological feasibility studies (practice theory predominantly), to try and change the  everyday praxis of specific consumer segments in a more sustainable direction. Practices could include consumption of beef, bottled water, food waste etc. 

In groups students are asked to come up with solutions in roder to change and/or to make the food praxis more sustainable.  

Format of the presentation
Each team will perform a 10-minute presentation followed by 5 minutes for questions and debate with faculty 
and peers. Thus, the presentation and discussion equal a total of up to 15 minutes
All students within the team are required to present

Expected Learning outcomes
Learning to use course literature actively on ‘real life’ scenarios
Better understanding of innovation and change on food production and consumption 
Identification of everyday and structural barriers/opportunities for sustainable development 

Study Tour Case-Analysis - Presentation and upload 
Before going on the long study tour, the class will be divided into groups. Each group will be assigned academic visit(s) for the Long Study Tour. Based on observations and conversations from the assigned academic visit(s), the groups must present their insights in class within a comparative framework and perspective. 
Student groups will present a 4-slides presentation for each designated visit. Students reflect on the challenges and possibilities of producing and consuming a sustainable diet related to the concept of the visit.
The slideshow is presented in the first class after the study tour and submitted on Canvas after the presentation. 
Each team will perform a 10-minute presentation followed by 5 minutes for questions and debate with faculty 
and peers. Thus, the presentation and discussion equal a total of up to 15 minutes
All students within the team are required to present
Expected learning outcomes
Identify overarching analytical themes based on these academic visits
Draw comparative insights from analyzing and reflecting on these themes
Present your insights and conclusions to an audience in an engaging manner
Pose engaging questions to your audience and lead a group discussion

Essay: Food, Power and Sustainability
Identify a relevant problem-formulation topic of own choice but with focus on broader societal themes relating to sustainability. Could be themes addressed in lectures and visits. For instance, sustainable consumption of meat, the evolvement of organic food, historic food sustainable developments (industrial food- sugar consumption), or the contexts for different diets for different users (unsustainable diets for instance). Please feel free to use your own background and knowledge outside of the course syllabus to make the essay even more interesting, but remember to include a minimum of two in-class texts as references (lectures/slides do not count). 
The essay should not exceed 1500 words and pictures (including diagrams or models) are not allowed in this exercise. 

Overall evaluation criteria for the written assignment:
Ability to select a relevant case/topic as well as the ability to describe and and situate this properly in context.
Analytical skills that goes beyond the mere descriptive level by connecting analytical points to other analytical points and produce a coherent reflection –particularly in the discussion.
Ability to relate your analytical example to class and to the literature from class and, if relevant, supplemented by literature you have found yourself (2-3 texts) or from othe relevant courses.
Clarity of style and coherence of argumentation

Active Participation and Class Engagement
Participation and engagement entails among others: active participation in class discussions, preparation for each class, reflection on readings and sessions, active participation in field studies, sharing and writing of journals in and outside of class. 
Evaluation criteria (Ongoing):
Demonstrate having read carefully for each session
Participate actively in class discussions
Contribute with original perspectives from previous experience, courses
Doing assignments carefully and timely
Partaking constructively in field studies.




Change and Food Sustainability in ‘Real Life’ - Presentation and upload


Study Tour Case-Analysis - Presentation and upload 



Essay: Food, Power and Sustainability



Active Participation and Class Engagement



Academic Regulations (Summer)

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -



Course Summary:

Date Details Due