Concerns are growing over the ability of the modern food system to simultaneously achieve food security and environmental sustainability in the face of global change. Yet, the dominant tendency within university settings to conceptualize and address diverse food system challenges as separate, disconnected issues is a key barrier to food system transformation. To address this fragmented approach, educators in North American institutes of higher education have begun new degree programs, specializations and certificates related to food systems. These programs, which we term sustainable food system education (SFSE) programs, have a common goal: to support post-secondary students across a range of disciplines in developing the knowledge, skills and dispositions to effectively address complex challenges in the food system. Graduates of these programs will be able to engage in collective action towards transforming the food system. As educators participating in flagship SFSE programs, we identify common pedagogical themes evident in SFSE programs, including our own. We then propose a signature pedagogy (SP) for sustainable food systems education. Signature pedagogies are conceptual models that identify the primary elements by which professional education in a specific field is designed, structured and implemented. On the basis of our analysis of SFSE programs, we identified systems thinking, multi-, inter-and trans-disciplinarity, use of experiential learning approaches and participation in collective action projects as central themes within a SFSE SP. By making these themes and their function explicit within a pedagogical framework, we seek to spur critical and creative thought regarding challenges of professional education in the field of sustainable food systems. Scholars and practitioners are encouraged to review, critique and implement our framework to advance the dialogue on SFSE theory and practice.
Citizens’ concerns about farm animal welfare are often dismissed on the assumption that they are not well informed about farming practices. We conducted exploratory surveys of interested citizens (n = 50) before and after a self-guided tour of a 500-head dairy farm. ‘Before’ survey questions explored perceptions, concerns, and values about dairy cattle farming and welfare, in addition to a short knowledge-based quiz on dairy cattle husbandry. An ‘after’ survey explored the extent to which these constructs shifted after the tour. Before, most participants correctly answered quiz questions about general feeding and housing practices, but scores were low on questions about specific practices such as cow-calf separation. Participants considered several elements as necessary for a ‘good’ life for dairy cattle: fresh food and water, pasture access, gentle handling, space, shelter, hygiene, fresh air and sunshine, social companions, absence of stress, health, and safety from predators. These elements reflect a diverse conception of animal welfare that incorporates values for physical and mental well-being, natural living, and humane care. The visit had a mixed effect on perceptions of whether dairy cows had a ‘good’ life, improving perceptions for a quarter of participants, worsening perceptions in a third, with no shift in the remaining participants. The visit appeared to mitigate some concerns (e.g., provision of adequate food and water, gentle humane care) while reinforcing or eliciting others (e.g., lack of pasture access, early cow-calf separation). Moreover, animal welfare-relevant values held by participants (e.g., natural living, care) appeared to play an important role in influencing perceptions of farm practices. These results suggest that education and exposure to livestock farming may resolve certain concerns, but other concerns will likely persist, especially when practices conflict with deeply held values around animal care.
There has been growing policy interest in social justice issues related to both health and food. We sought to understand the state of knowledge on relationships between health equity—i.e. health inequalities that are socially produced—and food systems, where the concepts of ‘food security’ and ‘food sovereignty’ are prominent. We undertook exploratory scoping and mapping stages of a ‘meta-narrative synthesis’ on pathways from global food systems to health equity outcomes. The review was oriented by a conceptual framework delineating eight pathways to health (in)equity through the food system: 1—Multi-Scalar Environmental, Social Context; 2—Occupational Exposures; 3—Environmental Change; 4—Traditional Livelihoods, Cultural Continuity; 5—Intake of Contaminants; 6—Nutrition; 7—Social Determinants of Health and 8—Political, Economic and Regulatory context. The terms ‘food security’ and ‘food sovereignty’ were, respectively, paired with a series of health equity-related terms. Combinations of health equity and food security (1414 citations) greatly outnumbered pairings with food sovereignty (18 citations). Prominent crosscutting themes that were observed included climate change, biotechnology, gender, racialization, indigeneity, poverty, citizenship and HIV as well as institutional barriers to reducing health inequities in the food system. The literature indicates that food sovereignty-based approaches to health in specific contexts, such as advancing healthy school food systems, promoting soil fertility, gender equity and nutrition, and addressing structural racism, can complement the longer-term socio-political restructuring processes that health equity requires. Our conceptual model offers a useful starting point for identifying interventions with strong potential to promote health equity. A research agenda to explore project-based interventions in the food system along these pathways can support the identification of ways to strengthen both food sovereignty and health equity.
Strong feedback between global biodiversity loss and persistent, extreme rural poverty are major challenges in the face of concurrent food, energy, and environmental crises. This paper examines the role of industrial agricultural intensification and market integration as exogenous socio-ecological drivers of biodiversity loss and poverty traps in Latin America. We then analyze the potential of a food sovereignty framework, based on protecting the viability of a diverse agroecological matrix while supporting rural livelihoods and global food production. We review several successful examples of this approach, including ecological land reform in Brazil, agroforestry,
milpa, and the uses of wild varieties in smallholder systems in Mexico and Central America. We highlight emergent research directions that will be necessary to assess the potential of the food sovereignty model to promote both biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.
scite is a Brooklyn-based organization that helps researchers better discover and understand research articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or contrasting evidence. scite is used by students and researchers from around the world and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.