The Institute Of Human Nutrition

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2016 and 2017 Foods Systems Workshops: CoP I and CoP II

Please see highlights from our Community of Practice Systems Thinking Workshops I and II - and visit this link for information on our CoP III!  


On June 8 & 9, 2017  we gathered for a full day of panels and presentations on existing work and lessons learned and a second day of active curriculum development.

The primary purposes of the event was to 1) continue to create a community of practice of people working on developing and implementing curricula in food systems courses; 2) review and develop materials using systems thinking frameworks in teaching about food systems; and 3) share or develop assessment tools on student learning in systems thinking.

We also shared methods for effective interdisciplinary exploration of complex, interacting elements in food systems that include but are not limited to agriculture (agronomy), anthropology, biology, ecology, economics, environmental science, human geography, medicine, nutrition, public health and sociology.


Sharon Akabas PhD, Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University; Eleanor Sterling PhD, and Erin Betley MS, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History.





Community of Practice (CoP) II

Teaching About Food Systems: 

Transforming Thought into Action 

AGENDA for June 8 & 9, 2017

Columbia University Medical Center, Health Sciences Building,
701 W 168th St, New York, NY 10032


Thursday, June 8, 2017

8:00-9:00 AM

On-site registration and coffee

9:00-9:15 AM

Overview of Agenda (Eleanor Sterling and Sharon Akabas)

9:15-10:00 AM

Keynote: Turning Thought into Action I: Food Solutions New England: From Connecting to Aligning for Collaborative Action  (Tom Kelly)        

10:00-10:45 AM

Keynote: Turning Thought Into Action II: The Systems and Transdisciplinary Aspects of the EFSNE Project  (Kate Clancy)

10:45-11:15 AM


11:15AM-12:30 PM

Panel: Modeling for Learning: Looking Inside the 'Systems Thinking' Toolbox (Steven Gray, Rebecca Jordan, Tammy Long)

12:30-2:00 PM


2:00-3:15 PM

Workshop Session I

3:15-3:45 PM


3:45-5:00 PM

Workshop Session II

5:00-5:30 PM

Recap of the Day, forecasting for Friday’s sessions


Friday, June 9, 2017


9:00-10:15 AM

Workshop Session III

10:15-10:30 AM


10:30 AM- 11:45 PM

Workshop Session IV

11:45AM-1:00 PM

Workshop review and continued feedback

1:00-2:00 PM


2:00-3:30 PM

Summary and Next Steps

3:30-5:00 PM

Spirits, fruit, nuts and cheese



Session 1:

Tammy LongA Beginner's Guide to Conceptual Modeling in the Undergraduate Classroom  
Scientists regularly use models and modeling for organizing, representing, and evaluating ideas, and for explaining and predicting system behaviors. Implementing model­based instruction in undergraduate science classrooms, however, can be challenging due to large class sizes, variable skills and preparation of students, and minimal to no training for faculty in the use of effective pedagogical methods. 

In this workshop, we will use examples from a model-based introductory biology course to discuss no-tech strategies for incorporating conceptual modeling into instruction. Unlike other modeling approaches, conceptual modeling aims to help students better understand system properties by focusing on connections among system components. Participants will learn (a) why modeling is a priority for learning across biological domains, (b) how modeling can align instruction and assessment in diverse learning contexts, (c) how data from students’ models can inform us about what students are and are not learning, and (d) techniques for delivering feedback, even in large classes.


Joanne Burke and Karen SpillerDiscerning Entry Level Competency Standards in Sustainable Food System Theory & Practice
An integral component of food system education is developing the capacity for emerging professionals to appreciate the multiple, dynamic relationships that exist among natural resources, ecosystem services and human needs, desires and values. From farm to fork, where equity, food rights, social justice, climate, diet, health and policy all meet, workshop participants will work together to identify core foundational concepts and related learning outcomes for the highly complex food systems discipline.

Upon completion of this interactive session, participants will demonstrate the capacity to :

1.     Define what is meant by sustainable food systems education

2.     Identify essential/core concepts and competencies that reflect knowledge acquisition, coupled with an applied skills base

3.     Develop strategies that promote development of entry level food system thinking and acting


Selena Ahmed: Building Student Capacity to Lead Sustainability Transitions in the Food System through Farm-based Authentic Research Modules in Sustainability Sciences (FARMS)  
How can faculty serve as bridges between the learning, practicing, and scientific communities in order to increase student capacity and agency for leading food system reform? This workshop presents an experiential learning model termed farm-based authentic research modules in sustainability sciences (FARMS) to prepare the next generation of sustainability leaders in the food system. FARMS consist of primary research projects that are collaboratively designed with community stakeholders to address sustainability challenges of the food system through identification of evidence-based management solutions. This workshop illustrates how to design FARMS curriculum activities, project reflections, and course evaluations on the basis of a sustainable food system education signature pedagogy that includes the themes of: (1) systems thinking, (2) multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinarity, (3) use of experiential learning approaches and, (4) participation in collective action projects. We will brainstorm how to adapt this model in a range of contexts including varied locations and grade level as well as how overcome potential challenges of the implementation of FARMS. 


Kate Clancy and Chris Peters: Pedagogical Aspects of the Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast (EFSNE) Food Systems Project.  
Can your research truly enhance your teaching? Funders often require large interdisciplinary projects to include education and outreach in addition to research. While this integration sounds great in theory, it is not easy to achieve in practice. In this workshop, we will share examples of how education was woven into the Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast (EFSNE) Project, a seven-year project to assess whether greater reliance on regionally-produced foods can improve food security for low-income communities, while also benefiting farmers, food supply chain firms, and others in the food system. We will reflect on what worked well and what proved challenging. Come prepared to ask questions, offer feedback, and share lessons from your own experiences.


Session 2:

Rebecca JordanSystem Modeling: Using a Conceptual Representation and Conceptual Modeling Tool to Explore Systems Thinking
Learning about systems can be made easier through modeling. In natural systems, we often see patterns we want to explain or we often ask why things happen. To help students capture this complexity we often need to provide them with tools with which to reason. In this workshop, we will explore a set of tools that has been shown to both support systems thinking within a unit of study, but also across a units of study.


Pamela Koch and Jennifer WilkinsEngaging College Students in Sustainability through Dietary Guidance 
Federal dietary guidelines do more than help us eat well. They also influence implementation of large, publicly funded nutrition assistance programs in the United States. Faced with growing evidence of diet-related health and environmental impacts, university training of future food and nutrition professionals needs to include knowledge and skill development in assessing and communicating about sustainable diets and food-related behaviors. This workshop explores exciting ways to engage college students in sustainability through activities that investigate what makes foods sustainable — and unsustainable — all through the lens of dietary guidance, as a critical step in developing this area of professional competency.     


Shauna Downs and Kate BurrowsUsing a Combination of Value Chain Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment to Examine the Trade-offs of Food Production and Consumption 
This workshop will provide an overview of value chain analysis and life cycle assessment and how it can be used to examine the environmental and nutrition/health trade-offs of food production and the way it moves throughout the value chain. This workshop will provide examples of both take-home and in-class exercises that challenge students to think about the environmental and nutrition/health implications of the way we produce, process, distribute, sell and consume food.


Session 3:

Steven Gray: Promoting and Measuring Systems Thinking with Mental Modeler  
Fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM) is a form of concept mapping that translates qualitative static models of complex systems into semi-quantitative dynamic models for network and scenario analysis. In this hands-on workshop we present an overview of a low-barrier FCM-based software program called Mental Modeler ( and discuss the benefits and limitations of the tool to: (1) introduce students to systems modeling and (2) promote and measure systems thinking in the classroom. Additionally, by providing workshop participants with web-based access to the software and sample data we will create and analyze models, run scenarios, and discuss instructional and evaluation approaches that can be used across social and natural science disciplines.


Raychel Santo and Karen BassarabBuilding Student and Community Capacity Through Research on Food Policy Groups
Food (policy) councils, partnerships, coalitions, and similar initiatives—Food Policy Groups (FPGs)—are becoming increasingly popular mechanisms for engaging community stakeholders to reform their local and regional food systems. FPGs provide real-world settings to apply systems thinking to address disparities in health outcomes and healthy food access, combat racial and social injustices, promote more ecologically sustainable production and consumption practices, and support food economies. 


Julie Grossman and Mary RogersDEAL (Describe, Examine and Articulate your Learning): A Reflection Framework for Assessing Student Community-Engaged Learning
This workshop will introduce participants to a reflection model, DEAL, used by dozens of faculty around the U.S. to help students reflect on and deepen learning resulting from community-engaged experiences, ranging from community nutrition to soil science. In 2014, the University of Minnesota approved a new undergraduate Food Systems major. The program integrates community-engagement at every level in order to encourage student appreciation of worldviews different from their own, and uses DEAL as the reflection framework. The Food System major culminates with a capstone course in which students pursue 45 hours of field experiences working alongside community organizations to address community challenges and needs. We will involve participants in application of the DEAL model, present and discuss grading of student work, and seek input on how to utilize DEAL in a new introductory course for our major. Participants will leave with an understanding of how the DEAL model could be applied in their own courses, and rubrics and examples for its effective use.


Session 4:

Debbie HumphriesMapping the Global Food System: Developing and Applying Food Sector Causal Loop Diagrams
Deeper understanding of the global food system can be attained by encouraging students to use systems approaches.  This workshop will share an example of a final group project used in a graduate course, where groups of students tackled different sectors of the food system – fruits and vegetables; fisheries; animal products; grain; and legumes, nuts and seeds.  We will look at some of the final work products, and discuss the strengths and challenges of the learning experience.  Please come prepared to ask questions and share your own experience with food system assignments. 


Betty Izumi, Carmen Byker Shanks and Will ValleyIntegrating Community-based Learning in Nutrition and Food Systems Courses 
In this workshop, facilitators will share examples of how community-based learning has been integrated into nutrition and food systems courses across three different universities. Facilitators will focus specifically on strategies for 1) developing and nurturing community-academic partnerships, 2) fostering student reflection, 3) disseminating student projects, and 4) assessing student learning. In this hands-on workshop, participants will also work together in small groups to develop, modify, and/or refine their CBL courses. Participants should bring ideas for CBL nutrition and food systems courses they would like to teach or materials from CBL nutrition and food systems courses they have taught.


Open Mic: Bring Your 'Work in Progress' and We Will Help You Make Progress. For this workshop, there will be facilitated discussions to guide attendees in the development of assignments, courses and/or curricula that are works in progress. This workshop will take place during the Workshop IV session so attendees can integrate what they have learned from other workshops into their materials.



Plenarists, Panelists, Workshop Leader Bios & Photos: click here to view


Location and Transportation

Columbia University Medical Center, Health Sciences Building, 701 W 168th St, New York, NY 10032

Directions to Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC)
CUMC is located at West 168th Street and Broadway, immediately southeast of the George Washington Bridge, in the Heights/Inwood section of northern Manhattan.

By Public Transportation
Subway - Take the 1, A, C, trains to the 168th Street station. From midtown Manhattan, the A train provides express service.

Bus - A number of city buses serve the medical center: M-2, 3, 4, 5, and 100. For additional bus and subway information, call the Transit Authority at 718-330-1234.

By Automobile
The fastest and most convenient way to reach the medical center by automobile is to follow directions to the George Washington Bridge. Then exit onto Riverside Drive. From there, proceed south and turn left onto West 165th Street (the first left), and then right onto Fort Washington Avenue to the medical center parking facility.

From upstate New York and New Jersey After crossing the George Washington Bridge, follow signs to the Henry Hudson (also called the West Side Highway), and then to Riverside Drive.

From Riverdale and Westchester via the Saw Mill River Parkway Exit the Henry Hudson Parkway at the Riverside Drive exit, which is immediately past the George Washington Bridge.

From Westchester, Connecticut, or the East Side of Manhattan via the Major Deegan, Cross-Bronx Expressway, or Harlem River Drive approaching the George Washington Bridge, take the Henry Hudson Parkway, stay to the left and follow signs to Riverside Drive.

From the West Side of Manhattan Take the Henry Hudson Parkway to exit 15-Riverside Drive South.



Click the links below to view presentations from the 2016 workshop:

Molly Anderson, PhD, Getting to Systemic Analyses of Food Systems:

Michael Deaton, PhDHolistic Problem Solving: A System-Based Approach to Understanding the World

Selena Ahmed, PhD and Will Valley, PhD, Sustainable Food Systems Consortium Panel: Working Towards a Signature Pedagogy

Ryan Galt, PhD, How Do We Evaluate Food Systems Learning? Using Reflective Essays and Self-assessments to Understand Competency Development

Sharon Akabas, PhD, moderator, Betty Izumi, PhD, MPH, RD; Chris Peters, PhD; Carmen Byker Shanks, PhD; and Domingo Piñero, PhD; panelists on the Nutrition Panel, Sustainability and Nutrition Science: How Do They Intersect in the Classroom 

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Contact Us

630 West 168th Street, PH1512
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, NY 10032
(212) 305-4808