This is the syllabus used in conjunction with educational content offered by JHSPH. As a result, some of the information and/or materials listed here may not be relevant to or available for an OCW user's self-directed study.


Course Description

This course uses experiential learning, discussion, and related texts to challenge students to look closely at the environment of Baltimore City's complex food systems, and to consider what it would take to improve these systems to assure access for all to nutritious, adequate, affordable food, ideally with reduced environmental harm. Students "go backstage" with tour guides at sites including a supermarket, a corner store, an emergency food distribution center, and a farm connected to the city school system. Students learn about the types of food available at these sites, who uses them; relevant aspects of their operations, and site-relevant key barriers to and opportunities for providing access to healthier and more sustainably produce food. They also conduct oral history interviews about food with elderly city residents to understand how food access has changed over the years.

The in-class sessions are structured primarily as discussion seminars based around the readings and trips, supplemented with lectures and guest lectures. Class sessions will engage students to think critically, and will provide background and frameworks for understanding the experiential sessions. Throughout, students consider the relative impacts of access, demand, and stakeholder interests, and consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of voluntary, regulatory (governmental), legal and other strategies. Lectures and discussions consider applicability of lessons gained from the study of Baltimore to other area food systems.

For their final papers, students identify a problem and its key determinants, and they propose/analyze an option to address it. Students will have the opportunity to think critically about selected aspects of the city's food systems and food environments, identifying challenges and opportunities for change and incorporating lessons learned from other food systems and programs. In their papers, students will also discuss implications beyond Baltimore .

Course Objectives

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:


Highly recommended but not mandatory: Food Production, Public Health and the Environment (180.620.81); Food and Nutrition Policy (222.657.01); Food, Culture and Nutrition (222.654.01)


Articles: See Readings page for session-specific reading assignments.

Required Book: Winne, M. Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty. Beacon Press: Boston . 2008.

Course Requirements

The class is a series of seminar-style discussions and field trips. Students are expected to attend and participate in class, and read the assignments in order to contribute to the discussion.

Readings : Students must complete all readings and be prepared to discuss them in class. To get students thinking actively about the readings, the instructors will ask that they provide 1 to 3 informal bullets for each on (a) the articles' main messages and/or (b) questions, comments, criticisms or insights.

Seminar sessions: Seminar sessions consist of in-depth discussions based on the readings.

Class Field Trips: There are five field trips to food system sites in and near Baltimore city. Students are respon o sible for arranging their own transportation to several of the trips; the teaching assistant will help facilitate connections with those who have vehicles. In the session before each field trip, there will be a short orientation, including generation of a list of questions students might want to ask at the site. In the session after each field trip, the group will discuss observations and insights.

In addition to the scheduled field trips, students are also requested to visit a farmers' market, particularly if they haven't done so before, prior to class session 6 -- and to actively observe the goings-on through the lens of issues we have discussed in class.

Oral History Assignment: In pairs, students conduct oral history interviews with elderly Baltimore residents to learn about their experiences with and recollections of the city food system. Student pairs summarize the interviews in writing, including highlighting quotations of interest, to produce a document of up to five pages. Students also share their interviews orally with the class in five minute presentations.

Final Paper: For final papers, students choose an intervention or policy to improve the city's food system, and evaluate it using the Intervention Decision Matrix. Papers are to be 12-18 pages in length.

Grading Policy

Students are expected to attend class sessions and to participate actively in discussions. They are also expected to arrive promptly for field trip visits and to be respectful of those who have taken the time to share with us. When working in pairs on the interviews, papers and presentations, students are expected to take responsibility to be good partners. Partners will each be asked to describe how the task was divided. Papers must be submitted on time. Grades will be computed as follows: