Course Syllabus


Sustainable Food: Production and Consumption B

DIS Logo


Semester & Location:

Summer Session 3 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 4 credits

Study Tours:

Pietrasanta, Tuscany, Italy 

Major Disciplines:

Environmental Studies, Public Policy, Sustainability

Food Studies

Faculty Members:

Anna Maria Orrù and Jannie Steensig Vestergaard (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Time & Place:



Description of course: 

This course focuses on discovering and experiencing local sustainable food systems in the Nordic countries and Italy. We will look at concepts and meet change-agents that are reshaping the way we connect to food and Nature towards sustainability. We will provide students with the knowledge, discussions and experiences that generate understandings and tools on how to reach sustainable change in our food production and consumption.

This course will reflect on critical questions on how to achieve more sustainable and transparent food systems. This will entail looking at past, present and future practices, both sustainable and unsustainable in order to gather a feel picture of what we aim for. We will look at a variety of practices that include technology, society, ecology, economy and politics that help to make the production and consumption of food more sustainable. 

A key aspect that drives the paradigm shift in food sustainability includes reshaping our relationship and connections to food consumption and production. Together, we will look into and address the complexity of these environmental, social and economic impacts of our food systems through curated site visits, hands-on experiences, critical dialogues and eating the very matter we are discussing - food. We will look at critical questions such as: 

  • How can food and farming practices connect us to nature and resource-thinking? (ie: soil, compost, dip hands in soil, water, sun, drought)
  • Who is growing our food and how is it distributed? (ie: sustainable food accessible and affordable to all, SLU papers and tools)
  • How does food culture and our everyday habits connect to individual and planetary health?
  • What is the true cost and impact of food?
  • How can we view food as a community builder and social binder? (ie: cooperative model, land-use)
  • What is food activism and how can it make a difference? (ie: the right to your food - food sovereignty)
  • What can innovative food entrepreneurs teach us? (ie: pioneering restaurants, markets, art & design in food, food design)
  • What role can cities take to shape sustainable food systems and practices? (ie: urban & rural, providing green spaces, allotments, community gardens)
  • How can food be viewed as a transformative change-agent?

Farmer and food activist author Wendel Berry acutely states that “A Sustainable Agriculture does not deplete soils or people.” We are currently experiencing a myriad of environmental challenges associated with food production and consumption ranging from health issues, food waste, and seasonal food disconnection to environmental pollution, biodiversity loss, exacerbated climate change, growing populations (especially urban), and corporate monopolies. These challenges arise from how we produce, consume, distribute, sell and experience food. The complexity of food systems is multifold, but this course will help us gain an awareness of the different connections and possibilities that are occurring and need to happen in order to make ‘food’ more sustainable. 

If we imagine that ‘you are what you eat’, then the shift begins with each of us because food is at the center of all lives, both human and non-human. It is the condition for our existence, it is our energy source, it is our social binding material, and the building blocks of culture, traditions, and everyday life. Food in the agriculture sector also provides a livelihood for 883 million people according to the FAO. This is critical to what farming practices are used and their relationship to nature which provides the resources for plants to grow, animals to live, and soil communities to thrive. However, to foster sustainable food systems also requires immense change, from improving policies framing food to providing infrastructures to grow food sustainably. 

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 tour will take us to the region of Tuscany, known for its ‘cucina povera’ (poor cuisine). This does not mean it is inferior, rather the opposite. Tuscan cuisine is all about simplicity, making it fresh, and using only a few ingredients that incorporate seasonal produce. The Italian Mediterranean diet and gastronomy ‘la cucina italiana’ is recognised and admired around the world, making it available almost anywhere. It includes deeply rooted traditions that change based on the region, climate, community and landscape. But what is it that specifically curates the Italian eating experience, both historically and culturally? and what aspects of sustainability, both in production and consumption, contribute to improving environmental and agricultural sustainability?

Experiencing these north and south approaches to food systems will provide the groundwork for critical discourse about what the future of food entails and our role towards creating sustainable food futures.

Topics for course sessions could include:

  •     Farming practices, nature and resource-thinking
  •     Food production practices
  •     Food culture and everyday habits 
  •     Individual and planetary health
  •     environmental impacts of food
  •     Social food and farming
  •     food activism 
  •     food policy
  •     sustainable food innovation
  •     urban food systems and practices
  •     transformative food and green transition
  •     Organic production, consumption and history
  •     Urban Gardening, aquaponics and hydroponics
  •     Vegetarianism and veganism
  •     Everyday sustainable food habits
  •     New Nordic Cuisine and Diet
  •     Mediterranean diets
  •     Eating food and Identity
  •     Risk Society and food in the Anthropocene?
  •     New Technologies in food (GMO, Drones, food labs)



Learning objectives of the course:  

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

  •     Identify food systems and map global challenges of sustainable food production and consumption
  •     Define sustainable food production and consumption from multiple perspectives
  •     Have an awareness of food systems and their relation to natural resources and environmental effects
  •     Comprehend the complexity of national and global food systems 
  •     Engage in critical discussions regarding sustainable food initiatives
  •     Analyse different food consumption and production practices, both in the Denmark and Italy, but also globally
  •     Suggest tentative solutions to sustainable food systems based on theory, discourse, and hands-on experiences


Required texts: 

This is a preliminary list, but still being structured:

Week 1 - Introduction and sustainable food systems

Week 2 - The soil and the sea


  • Movie - also week 1 for required literature
  • Global Footprint Network:
  • About Earth Overshoot Day:
  • Open data platform: Ecological deficit/reserves:


Week 3 - Study tour to Tuscany, Italy

Week 4 - The role of cities



Approach to Teaching:

Course methods include interconnected lectures, videos/films, discussions, individual and group presentations/assignments, guest lectures, and field trips. We will also dip our hands into soil which is the foundation of healthy food practices and understandings. 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: 

We expect you to attend all class sessions unless you cannot due to an emergency. If you are not in class, you cannot participate. We expect you to complete all the assigned reading (weekly) and come to class prepared to discuss it in depth. And, we expect you to turn in assignments on time.

Students are not allowed to use a laptop or smartphone in class unless it is part of an activity or assignment (ie: taking photos, doing research). Considerations will, of course, be taken if you have special needs for a computer for note-taking. 

All students are expected to have completed the weekly 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 we may randomly select students to give key points on the readings for that day. It may be that some literature is discussed in more depth in our weekly reflection discussions that usually take place on Fridays.

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 discuss and learn from each other as well as from the texts and visits we engage with, and you are expected to actively support this approach.



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.


*Field studies, practicum and/or study tour: 

Field studies

  • Seerupgaard, Amager
  • Seaweed safari, Odsherred
  • Urban farming, beekeeping, social entrepreneurship, bakery and Swedish "fika" , Malmö, Sweden

Other visits

  • TorvehallerneKBH
  • VilletteCPH
  • Meat packing district, Cph
  • ...and more to come


Expected learning outcomes

  • Identify the overarching themes based in your academic visit and how they relate to the course theme on sustainability
  • Draw comparative insights from analyzing and reflecting on these themes from Denmark and Italy
  • Present your insights and conclusions to an audience in an engaging and clear manner 
  • Pose engaging questions to your audience and lead the group discussion


Grading:  percentage

  1.     Transformative Agents Journal - weekly entry 15%
  2.     Study Tour Analysis & Group Presentation 25% 
  3.     Closing Statement & action poster 35%
  4.     Active Participation and Class Engagement 25%


Academic Regulations

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