Food Systems, Human Health, and the Environment

Fall Open
Class Standing
Frederica Bowcutt
Prita Lal

In this program we will explore how the original American dietary traditions of First Nations peoples shifted during the colonial era and beyond to a food system styled largely upon European agricultural traditions and food culture. We will also consider the cultural appropriation of indigenous foods from the Americas over time from the tomato to quinoa. The influence of capitalism on dietary trends in the U.S. between the 18th and 21st centuries will be an important focal point for the program. For example, we will consider how the rapid rise in consumption of sugar and other tropical luxuries contributed to industrialization at the expense of exploited labor. The impact of scientific agriculture on American food ways beginning in the 19th century will also be explored. We will focus on broader food system issues pertaining to production, consumption, distribution, and waste. As a learning community we will consider the social determinants of health perspectives, which intersect with questions around types of diets/food ways, access to power and health. Our learning community will examine the connections between dietary changes and the rise of “affluence diseases” in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will also explore various social movements catalyzed by the negative impacts of the industrial diet and the standard American diet (SAD) including efforts to increase indigenous food sovereignty.

Experiential learning is an important element of the program. Through a series of workshops, students will learn to search the scientific literature to locate clinically-based research to refute or support various dietary arguments. For example, is a low carbohydrate, high protein paleo diet the most healthful option? What are the environmental implications of a paleo or keto diet? Does industrial meat production contribute to the evolution of novel pathogens that can cross over to humans increasing the risk for global pandemics? Are the claims that a vegan diet has a smaller carbon footprint and prevents affluence diseases science-based? What might it mean to decolonize your diet? Does eating like your ancestors promote health? At the end of the quarter, students will have the opportunity to share their research findings. This will in part take the form of cooperative group projects that are faculty guided and student-driven. These projects might involve planning a pop-up community meal or student-led workshops on food nutrition and food history building off of the learning in our program. Through the group work, students will develop leadership and collaboration skills, which relate well to studies of food systems. The program will also offer weekly hands-on food labs. We will consider and put into practice the ideas of a variety of cooks, chefs, nutritionists and community-based food activists. And in the process, we will also consume delicious, healthy food together.

This program incorporates Greener Foundations. Greener Foundations is Evergreen’s in-person 2-quarter introductory student success course, which provides all first-year students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive at Evergreen. First-year students who register for 14 credits in this program will be placed into Greener Foundations for an additional 2 credits, totaling 16 credits. Once first-year students have been placed into Greener Foundations, they will receive an email confirming their registration status.


Course Reference Numbers

So (14): 10017
Fr (14): 10167

Academic Details

agriculture, economic botany, food studies, history, nutrition


$150 required fee: $100 for food tasting lab supplies and $50 require lab use fee


Hybrid (F)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details


Date Revision
2022-07-29 Student fee increased to $150 (was $50) to cover the costs of food tasting labs.
2022-03-11 This program is now 14 credits (was 16)