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Future of food - ESA00001I

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  • Department: Environmental Sustainability Academy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Tim Doheny-Adams
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

The current UK food system is giving rise to a growing social, health and environmental crisis. Much food production and our practices of food consumption are environmentally unsustainable. A new kind of food system is needed which delivers safe, healthy, affordable food to all population groups, restores and regenerates the natural environment, is built on regenerative agriculture with high welfare standards, provides a thriving rural and urban economy with well-paid jobs and is resilient to future shocks. The food system is challenged by a number of wicked problems requiring interdisciplinary systems-level analysis, change and education to solve.The first four weeks will introduce students to current complex social, economic and environmental challenges in food systems with case studies covered in lectures and workshops. The teaching will draw on expertise from a range of disciplines and involve guest lectures from policymakers, food industry and leaders in civil society, ensuring different voices and perspectives across the food system are heard. The subsequent six to seven weeks will engage students in developing a solution to a food system related challenge in small interdisciplinary groups.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

This is an interdisciplinary module in which students will meet and collaborate with peers across different disciplines to develop understanding of the food system and work on a solution to a specific food-system challenge (framed in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) which demands a multi-disciplinary approach. Students will be introduced to the complex social, economic and environmental challenges arising in food systems, with special focus on (i) environmental impacts, including contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, (ii) food waste, (iii) healthy and sustainable diets, and (iv) agricultural inputs and soil management. This will provide students with a foundational understanding of the food system, in addition to developing key skills such as the use of system mapping tools to estimate tradeoffs and identify synergies. Student groups will use the understanding they develop in working together to develop a solution to a food system challenge.

Module learning outcomes

Learning Outcome 1

Academic and graduate skills

Work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams on pressing local or global challenges

Learning Outcome 2

Subject content

Understand and critically discuss the interrelationships (tradeoffs and synergies) of different elements which constitute “the food system”.

Learning Outcome 3

Subject content

Formulate and evaluate strategies to address pressing issues concerning the food system

Learning Outcome 4

Subject content

Develop an understanding of systems mapping theory and methods

Learning Outcome 5

Subject content

Develop a nuanced understanding of four key current challenges faced by our food system: (i) climate change, (ii) food waste, (iii) balanced diets for all, (iv) agricultural inputs and soil health


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Group podcast/vodcast online submission
N/A 40
Essay : analysis report on a food system tradoff
N/A 30
Project progress folder/book : Individual participation to group work assessed via participation in workshops and engage
N/A 30

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay : project report
N/A 100

Module feedback

If the average module mark for a student is below a pass, then the student can be re-assessed as outlined below.

Indicative reading

These are available through the VLE module site

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.