Food and Culture (NUTR 301)

Instructor: Carmen Byker Shanks, PhD, RDN
Class meeting time: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:40 pm - 2:55 pm
Class location: Roberts Hall, Montana State University

Food is an essential component of life and livelihoods everywhere. However, food patterns vary across the globe. Diets are shaped by cultures, influencing the foods people can and do eat. Dietary practices present important implications for the health and development of individuals as well as groups. Drawing upon a socioecological framework, students will build cultural competency by examining and experiencing the concurrent influences of food and culture over the course of history.

Food System Resilience, Vulnerability, and Transformation (SFBS 466)

Instructor: Selena Ahmed, PhD
Class meeting time: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:05 pm – 4:20 pm
Class location: Herrick Hall 317, Montana State University

What is resilience? What is the importance of applying the concept of resilience to food systems? How can we design resilient food systems that can mitigate risk in the context of environmental and socio-economic change towards achieving sustainability? As actors in the food system, how can we develop our personal resilience?

In this seminar-based course, we will examine these questions within the framework of socio-ecological systems. This course will start with building a theoretical foundation on resilience thinking through an examination of case studies that illustrate core resilience concepts including adaptive capacity, management, complexity, thresholds, regime shifts, transformation, and vulnerability. Next, we will turn our attention to implementing resilience thinking in designing sustainable food systems including the dimensions of production, consumption, and food waste. On the production side, we will focus on adaptive management of agroecosystems in the context of global environmental change. This will include agroecosystem design principles that draw from indigenous and innovative agricultural management. On the consumption side, we will focus on food security including factors that resist or encourage food environment transitions and dietary transitions. Throughout the semester we will also carry out exercises of mindfulness regarding how we can develop our own personal resilience as stakeholders as well as potential future leaders in the food system. Ultimately, we will be able to identify the socio-ecological determinants of resilience in order to design adaptable food systems that support environmental and human health in the context of global change.

Global Food Perspectives (SFBS 551)

Instructor: Selena Ahmed, PhD
Class meeting time: Wednesdays 8:00 am – 11:00 am
Class location: Herrick Hall 117, Montana State University

From the diversified home gardens of South East Asia to the dietary guidelines of Brazil, food tells a unique story about people, place and perspectives. In this course, we will journey to a different region of the globe each week and explore food systems from multiple perspectives as well as the interaction of these perspectives. Some of our journeys will take us to a different time. We will focus on how environmental, cultural, socio-economic and political factors of a place influence food, dietary choices and human health. In turn, we will examine how consumption practices feed back into the food system to influence production, the environment, markets, identity and equity. We will further assess the sustainability and dynamism of the food system in each location under the context of global change including the nutrition transition, globalized trade and climate change. Ultimately, we will synthesize our understanding of global food perspectives to critically evaluate our current food system and design sustainability solutions.

Measuring Innovation In The Food System (SFBS 327)

Instructor: Selena Ahmed, PhD
Class meeting time: Wednesdays 5:10 pm – 8:00 pm, Fall Semester
Class location: Herrick Hall 314, Montana State University

What are the effects of indigenous or innovative farm management practices such as agro-forestry on crop yield and quality? Why do farmers select these management practices? What are benefits of a specific management technique for farmer livelihoods and consumer wellbeing?

In this interdisciplinary research methods course, you will learn natural and social science tools to address such questions on the sustainability of food systems through an evidence-based approach. Students will be provided training on all stages of the research process in the field and lab from idea conceptualization to experimental design, proposal preparation, research implementation, data collection, analysis, and dissemination of findings. Natural science methods will draw from agro-ecology and plant sciences including manipulative experiments, ecological transects, botanical collections, and phytonutrient analysis in the lab. Social and health science methods will draw from cultural anthropology, economic and behavioral studies, epidemiology, and citizen science approaches including participation observation, observational analysis, structured interviews, consumer willingness-to-pay surveys, and sensory analysis. By the end of this course, students are expected to have a better idea on how to measure if a plan or intervention is sustainable on the basis of multiple aspects of sustainability.

Nutrition And Society (NUTR 351)

Instructor: Carmen Byker Shanks, PhD, RDN
Class meeting time: Tuesdays 3:05 pm - 5:45 pm, Fall Semester; Online, Summer Semester
Class location: Montana State University

Nutrition and Society (NUTR 351) introduces students to the relationship between food, nutrition, agricultural practices, programs, and policies that influence public health. For the first time in many students’ academic career, they learn about the social determinants of nutritional status, community nutrition program planning and implementation, and cultural food diversity, as well as to conduct a community needs assessment. This course stretches the minds of students looking for clear answers to the causes and consequences of obesity and chronic disease or focused on the consumption or agricultural end of the food system.

Research Design In Health and Human Development (HHD 512)

Instructor: Carmen Byker Shanks, PhD, RDN
Class meeting time: Tuesdays 5:10 pm - 8:00 pm, Spring Semester
Class location: Herrick Hall Room 117, Montana State University

Research Design in Health and Human Development (HHD 512) prepares graduate students in the Department of Health and Human Development with tools to conduct research in their respective field. Students learn about various research methods by building their own graduate work, including preparing and presenting a research proposal. Through class time, readings, and assignments during this course, students develop and refine a researchable question, learn techniques to search for and interpret literature and integrate into evidence-based practice, distinguish between research designs, evaluate methodology for purpose, feasibility, validity, and reliability, propose a significant, feasible, valid, and reliable research project, and develop a variety of communication skills to translate research to various public audiences.

State of the Food Environment: Policy, Measurement, And Practice (SFBS 552)

Instructor: Selena Ahmed, PhD
Class meeting time: Wednesdays 2:10 pm - 4:50 pm, Fall Semester alternative years (2013, 2015, 2017, etc.)
Class location: Herrick Hall Room 117, Montana State University

What does food policy encompass? How are food policies made, implemented, and evaluated? What are implications of food policies for human and environmental wellbeing? What challenges and opportunities characterize the food environment in the USA?

In this seminar-based course, we will examine these questions within the framework of a coupled socio-ecological systems model. This course will start with an overview of food policy in the United States. We will learn how to apply data analysis tools and theory from the economic, political, ecological and social institutions literature to analyze food policies. Our analysis will focus on critical issues in the food environment from production to consumption that impact human and environmental wellbeing. Topics covered include agricultural policy, conservation, biodiversity, pollution, international agricultural trade, worker conditions, food prices, dietary guidance, phytonutrients, dietary diversity, food safety, food labeling, food marketing, food assistance programs and land-use planning. Ultimately, we will integrate our socio-ecological understanding of food policies in the USA to identify tools and strategies to meet current and future food system challenges.

Interactive lectures, readings from the primary literature and news, peer-led discussions, case studies and presentations will provide the opportunity for critical analyses of food policy in contemporary context. This course will culminate in the student evaluation of a current food policy and creation of new policies accompanied by an advocacy toolkit to more effectively manage challenges in our food system.