Food Justice and Policy

STOCKSCH 356 – Food Justice and Policy

May 17 – June 25, 2021


NOTE:  Although STOCKSCH 265 (Sustainable Agriculture) is listed as a requirement, this is not the case. for the online class. Please contact the instructor to override this pre-requisite and register!

Instructor: Catherine H. Sands MPPA


Why are food power and justice important?

Are the policies that frame our food system equitable? 

Learn to frame RACIAL EQUITY in food policy, to describe a POLICY PROBLEM, research community based policy STRATEGIES and SOLUTIONS and understand TOOLS for ADVOCACY.

This course examines the role of policy in determining WHAT we eat, WHO experiences barriers to access to safe, healthy, local, fairly produced foods, and HOW we create equity and sustainability in our local food system. We will start by looking at the basic components of our food system: production, distribution, and consumption. We will then examine systemic structures of race, class, citizenship and ability as they relate to access to healthy local food. The course-work concludes with an in-depth look at food sovereignty, the right of communities to choose how their food is produced and what they consume, the impact of agribusiness and the concentration of resources into the hands of a few corporations, and the dramatic effect U.S. food policies have on the rest of the world. Students will have the opportunity to do research and analysis about successful food justice initiatives and the Farm Bill.

From Interaction Institute for Social Change

Learning Objectives:

  • To acquire knowledge of today’s food system: how food is produced, distributed, and consumed.
  • To develop a critical analysis of how racism, privilege, and classism impact the U.S. food system
  • To understand key issues around equitable access to healthy, culturally appropriate food.
  • To learn about and critically evaluate grassroots, regional and federal policy and planning efforts to improve equity in our food systems.
  • To develop new strategies and action plans for food justice. To explore and hone tools of respectful community engagement and collaboration.

Course Outline:

  1. Unit 1: History: First Peoples, Stolen Lands, The US Agricultural Machine
  2. Unit 2: Race, privilege, geographies of opportunity
  3. Unit 3: Labor, Production, Justice
  4. Unit 4: Corporate Concentration, Structural Racism and the Farm Bill
  5. Unit 5: The Farm Bill Continued – Reauthorization and Nutrition Title Reform 2018 Food Equity Debates
  6. Unit 6: Creating Change from the ground up: Local, Regional, National  Equitable Policy and Movement Building Across Sectors

Required Readings:

  • Imhoff, Daniel. 2012. Food Fight. The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill, California: Watershed Media Books.
  • Alkon, Alison Hope and Julian Agyeman. 2011. Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability (Food, Health and the Environment). MIT Press Edition: 50644th. ISBN 9780262516327
  • Bowens, Natasha. 2015. The Color of Food. British Columbia: New Society Book Publishers (also available through the WEB DuBois library as an ebook).
  • And many articles and films–  read about Food Policy Councils, the MA Local Food Action Plan, HEAL Food Alliance, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Migrant Justice, Coalition for Immokalee Workers, and MUCH MORE.
From: Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council Photo Voice Project

Instructor Bio: Catherine Sands, MPPA, is director of Fertile Ground, working with organizations and foundations to maximize strategies that promote healthy and empowered families and communities. She currently provides evaluation technical assistance to innovative food access organizations across New England. She also facilitates conversations with organizations, schools and universities to reimagine and build just, equitable, shared systems and processes. Catherine is a member of the CISA board of directors, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Good Food for All policy group, and the PV Grows Steering committee, where she co-directs the Racial Equity committee. Catherine has developed and taught Community Food Systems and Food, Justice and Policy at UMASS Amherst for over a decade, and is fortunate to collaborate with many former students who have diverse jobs building a stronger regional food system.

Technology: According to UMass Online, in order to take this course you must:

  • have access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows)
  • be familiar with basic computer skills
  • be connected to the internet
  • have an e-mail program and account
  • have at least a 56 kbps modem
  • have a Java capable browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer)

NOTE: If you have any problems with technology, please contact the UMass Online Tech Support office for help.

This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science degree as well as the Online B.S. degree.  Online classes cost $482/credit.

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