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Global food systems and health

Module information>

Academic Direction
Birkbeck, University of London
Modes of Study

Transforming the food system to sustainability is critical: how can we produce healthy food sustainably to meet the UN Sustainable Goal 2 of Zero Hunger, distribute it equitably and reduce food loss?

The food system is intimately tied to human health and wellbeing through the food that we eat and the ways in which it is produced and distributed. The module offers students an engaging way to explore the interconnectedness of environmental systems and human behaviours at a range of scales and to assess how these are and can be managed.

Topics covered

Main topics of the module include: 

  • Case studies: deforestation and certification related to palm oil, and social movements (e.g. La Via Campesina)
  • Agriculture: biodiversity, health and wellbeing
  • Fishing: marine ecosystems, climate change and livelihoods
  • Food system: production, consumption, food loss and waste
  • Food consumption: access, justice and nutrition
  • Policy for sustainable food systems: international frameworks and local practices, including a focus on UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), and its interactions with other Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. SDG 1, No Poverty, SDG 3, Health and Wellbeing, SDG 15, Life on Land)
  • Food futures: sustainability transformations, technologies and innovation and politics 

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be expected to be able to:  

  • apply academic concepts and theories, critically evaluate the complex drivers and consequences of food systems for different societal groups.
  • articulate the diverse, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary framings of food systems, their relationship with the environment, health and wellbeing, and their governance, including indigenous and non-Western knowledges.
  • assess the effectiveness, equity and trade-offs of different food system health and sustainability goals and policies at global, regional and local levels and over time, and using case studies, consider constructive solutions.
  • critically evaluate key debates, concepts and theories relating to food systems, health and sustainability.
  • apply discourse analysis for understanding the politics of food systems, health and sustainability.
  • practice self-reflection and self-awareness, openness and sensitivity to diversity in terms of people, cultures, and global sustainability issues.


  • Final essay (100%) 

Entry requirements

To qualify to register for a stand-alone individual module, applicants will need a bachelor’s degree or Aegrotat (certificate) from an institution acceptable to the University.