180.605.01 | AY 2013-2014 - 4th Term | 3 Credit(s)
F 1:30:00 PM
  • Contact Information
    Roni Neff
    Assistant Instructor
    Margaret Burke
    Carrie Burns
  • Course Learning Objectives

    After completing this course, you should be able to:

    • Discuss selected topics in food system environmental sustainability, including key interventions, challenges and opportunities.
    • Describe the operation of a program or project related to food system environmental sustainability, and the site’s relationship with its community.
    • Reflect on the student’s own role as a professional engaging with an organization, including identifying strengths and areas for further improvement.
    • Discuss the contributions to food system environmental sustainability of the programs students in the class worked with, and otherwise draw broader lessons from these site experiences.
  • Course Description

    Converging crises in resource depletion, resource contamination, climate change, and population – and extensive food waste, inefficiency and overuse – combine to create unprecedented threats to longterm food security and thus to the public’s health.  Many of these crises are substantially or partly rooted in the ways we produce, distribute and consume food.  Others have broader roots.  There is a tremendous need to understand and develop effective responses to them, with particular concern for impacts on inequities.  Further, there is a need for a systems approach, recognizing that these concerns are complex and intertwined with one another and with factors in domains including society, economics, biology, and policy.  There are often nutritional or other public health co-benefits to addressing these environmental issues. 

    This is a practicum course.  Students will be grouped into service-learning teams, and each team will spend approximately four hours per week working with an organization on a project related to food system environmental sustainability.  Through these experiences, students are provided the opportunity to learn about food system environmental sustainability issues first-hand, and to observe real-world challenges, by engaging with organizations working for positive change.  The service-learning opportunities are intended to be mutually beneficial to the students, organizations, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and overall to food system sustainability goals. The course goes beyond voluntarism, using in-class discussion and assignments to help students draw useful lessons from their experiences and to build students’ understanding and capacity to be effective professionals.

    To complement the practicum, the course provides a broad introduction to food system sustainability issues, focused exploration of selected topics in food system sustainability, and the chance to think deeply about ways to advance food system sustainability.

  • Intended Audience
    Students interested in the food system, those interested in environmental sustainability, and those seeking practical experience in organizations working on food system sustainability.
  • Methods of Assessment


    • Journal (20%)
    • Classroom and discussion forum participation (25%)
    • Evaluation by site proctor (7.5%)
    • Evaluation by peers on team (7.5%)
    • Evaluation of midterm paper (15%)
    • Evaluation of final paper (25%)


    Participation is graded on a scale of 0-5:

    0= absent without prior notification (If absent with notification/valid excuse, the day is omitted from average)

    1=did not look engaged, no participation or inappropriate

    2=appeared engaged but no participation 

    3=basic participation in quantity/quality

    4=significant participation, in quantity and esp. quality

    5=outstandingly thoughtful/insightful

    Added credit for quality discussion forum contributions can bump up a grade.

    NOTE: 4/5~ A; 3 could be A or B; 2~B or C; 1~C


    Journals are graded on a scale from 0-5:

    0=Did not complete assignment or completely off topic

    1=Considerable difficulty expressing ideas or descriptions clearly

    2=Doing the assignment but neutral experience without personal resonance or impact

    3=Gains affectively from experience but insights based on conscious reflection are few or simplistic

    4=Making connections and demonstrating insights into situations, issues and growth based on experiences

    5=Definite insights into issues and implications of experience and aware of increased complexity of issues and situations


    We will provide early feedback on participation and journals.


    Proctor and peer grading: Proctors and peers will be asked to grade each member of the team’s performance and participation on a scale of 1 to 5.  (1=missed many sessions, poor contributions, and or inappropriate; 2=subpar level of contribution; 3=adequate contribution – did everything expected; 4=good quality contribution; 5= excellent quality contribution, did more than fair share.

  • Prerequisites
  • Required Text(s)

    There is not a required text for this course.

    Optional text: Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2008). Strengths based leadership. New York, NY: Gallup Press.  Purchasing this book is not required for this course. 

    Students are encouraged to visit this website: and pay for access to the quiz associated with the book for $9.99.  It is recommended that students take the quiz and view the strengths insight and action planning guide based on their results prior to class session #6 (5/2/14).

  • Course Schedule

    Please see the course Session for a full list of dates and items for this course.

  • Estimated Workload

    The class meets for two hours weekly. Students will also spend approximately four hours per week working on service-learning projects.  The course also includes a mid-term paper, final paper and journal assignments.

  • Course Format

    Each class session will be divided into two parts.  One part will involve a presentation and discussion with the precepter from one of service-learning sites to which students are assigned.  The other part is discussion-focused, and will revolve primarily around the students' experiences at their service learning sites, as well as discussion of other issues in food system environmental sustainability.

    Our weekly seminar is from 1:30-3:30 on Fridays in W4019.  The class is discussion-centric, and will also have presentations and activities.  Attendance is expected; absence without prior notice results in a zero for the day’s participation grade.  It is essential to do the readings – and think about them - in advance of class so that you are prepared to discuss them.   If wanted, you may include commentary about the readings in your journals.  We will not spend time in class reviewing the content of the readings.

  • Service Learning Component

    Service-Learning (SL) Students will be asked to indicate ranking of SL sites, as well as whether they have a ride or can offer rides and their general availability (included in welcome email).  They will then be assigned to teams of 2-4 students. Teams will jointly discuss/plan transportation needs. The projects will begin with orientation/training meetings with site preceptors. The initial meeting will include:

    • Basic Orientation to your organization
    • Agree on Student Schedules
    • Discuss the Project and any deliverables (Both the preceptor and the student have the same general “job description.” Your preceptors will share their vision of the project with you. The first few meetings are essential for mapping the process of completing the project and agreeing upon the deliverables/outcomes.
    • Agree on student division of labor

    Students will spend approximately four hours a week on the SL project during the middle six weeks of the class.  Any deliverables should be submitted to the site before the end of the class, and the time to prepare them should fit into the four hour slot.  Following each SL session, students will be asked to record field notes (see below) and to log their hours. In the final week, students and preceptors will meet to debrief.  Both students and preceptors will rate the experience.

  • Assignments


    1. Readings: Students are responsible for weekly readings as listed in Courseplus
    2. Journal: Weekly journal entry to be submitted in drop-box by 8am on the Monday following each class.  Journals will cover project field notes and reflections, as well as commentary on a selected theme each week. You are also encouraged to share other related reflections there. (see end of syllabus for details). 
    3. Participation: We will track both the quality and quantity of your participation in class and on the discussion forums, (with priority given to quality) and will give you feedback around midway through.
    4. Eating ethically (as you define it): for 1 week –by 4/25, and incorporated in journal entry.
    5. Midterm: Students will discuss their practica and the issue of scale and the magnitude of challenges we face. How can/should our interventions be made ‘large’ enough to meet these challenges?  What is gained and what is lost?
    6. Final: Students will develop public comments about environmental sustainability to submit to the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (see end of syllabus)
  • Journal Assignments


    Reflective journaling is a valuable tool for thinking through issues and gaining deeper insights into your work and life, and we encourage its use even outside the class context.  Part of the benefit of journaling is that you can write whatever you want, from structured thoughts and analyses to random ideas to pasting in poetry, art or quotes, to angry rants and everything in between.  For the purposes of this class, we won’t share your journals without your permission, but you will still want to censor a little!


    Feel free to write in an informal style, use bullets, etc., but aim to have your journal communicate clearly.  Most important to us is to see you sharing how your experiences affect you, and thinking deeply about them.  We will discuss the content of these journals in class, so writing about it in advance can help you gather your thoughts.  If you write your journal after the class session, you can incorporate additional reflections taking off on that discussion.


    Each week you will turn in a 1-2 page (single space) journal containing two or more parts:

    1) A journal entry reflecting on the questions below for that week (you don’t need to go through linearly and address each one – just use them as a guide for the types of issues to cover.)

    2) Your field notes for the week (see below for how-to) plus any other notes or comments related to your practicum experience.

    3) You are welcome and encouraged to also include other reflections on the readings or class discussion. 

    Journals are due Monday mornings at 8am for the prior week. You are strongly encouraged to at least draft your journal prior to the class session, to aid in conversations.

    Journal 1 (Due 4/4/14)

    Initial observations about the site

    Who are main people involved? 

    Who are the key stakeholders in your project?

    What is the overall goal of the project?

    What do you expect your experience to be like?

    Predictions of challenges during the term

    What part of the project seems like it could be the most challenging?

    What are some barriers to the project's success?

    Is there a part of the project that you don’t understand or can’t see a clear answer to?

    Was there a part of the project--or another aspect of the organization--that you hadn’t considered at the start of the term?


     Journal 2  (Due 4/11/14)

    Your vision for a healthy, sustainable food system 

    How would you justify your vision?  What would others say about your vision?

    What do food production and distribution look like?

    How would food be produced? Distributed?

    What type of diet would be prevalent in your vision?


           Journal 3   (Due 4/18/14)

          The organization and its role in the sustainable food system

    What is the mission of the organization?

    What about the project/organization made you pick it?

    Is their role in the sustainable food system what you expected?


          Journal  4  (Due 4/25/14)

    Eating Ethically

    What is the most important aspect of eating ethically, in your opinion?

    What was the biggest challenge to eating in this manner for a week?

    How will you incorporate your experience eating ethically into your future eating habits?

    How can this activity fit into the greater context of food system sustainability?


          Journal 5 (Due 5/2/14)

           Your future role in the sustainable food system

    How did this project relate what you have learned or expected to learn in this project?

    Has this project helped you define how you see your future role in the sustainable food system?

    What would be the role of your project/organization in the future as part of the sustainable food system?

    What skills are you developing that could be useful in your professional career?


    Journal 6 (Due 5/9/14)

    What is needed to get from here to there

    What are possible solutions to the current challenges in the food system? 

    What are the pros and cons of the current situation?

    How would you implement your determined solution to food system sustainability?

    What barriers might you face in implementation?

  • Academic Ethics Code

    Students enrolled in the Bloomberg School of Public Health of The Johns Hopkins University assume an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the University's mission as an institution of higher education. A student is obligated to refrain from acts which he or she knows, or under the circumstances has reason to know, impair the academic integrity of the University. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to: cheating; plagiarism; knowingly furnishing false information to any agent of the University for inclusion in the academic record; violation of the rights and welfare of animal or human subjects in research; and misconduct as a member of either School or University committees or recognized groups or organizations.

  • Disability Support Services
    If you are a student with a documented disability who requires an academic accommodation, please contact the Office of Student Life Services at 410-955-3034 or via email at