The Institute Of Human Nutrition

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View video of the July Food Systems Workshop presentations by clicking here!

Didn't attend the workshops?  The Systems Thinking Workshop presentations were recorded, and as they become available, we will add the links below. You can view all of the video on the IHN's YouTube site; click on the links below. 

Ryan Galt, PhD

Michael Deaton, PhD

Molly Anderson, PhD 



 Workshop Background and Overview

Many educators are working at universities on Food Systems curricula and courses. If you teach or want to teach about food systems using cross-disciplinary systems thinking at the graduate or undergraduate level, come join us as we develop a community of practice!

On July 26-27 we will gather 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 will be to 1) 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 hope to also share methods for 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.

Day 1:
“Building the Pedagogic Framework: Systems Thinking, Food Systems and Making Sure It Works”

During the first day, we will have three plenary sessions to review 1) Systemic Analyses of Food Systems, 2) Holistic Problem Solving and 3) How Do We Evaluate Food Systems Learning? Using Reflective Essays and Self-assessments to Understand Competency Development as well as three panels to examine 1) Working Towards a Signature Pedagogy, 2) Sustainability and Nutrition Science: How Do They Intersect in the Classroom?, and 3) Focus on Agro-ecology: Lessons Learned in Systems Approaches to Teaching Food Systems.

Day 2:
Putting Pedagogic Theory into Practice

During the second day we will hold a series of workshops led by experienced faculty to explore how best to teach food systems topics in the classroom. Topics include: Assessing Student Progress in Systems Thinking; Integrating Racial Equity and Food Justice into our Personal Lives, our Professional Lives, and the Classroom; Food systems and Infectious Diseases; Teaching Students How to Use Infographics to Visualize Complex Food Systems Data for Multiple Audiences; Food Value Chain and Emissions/Life Cycle Analysis; On Cooking, Thinking, and Eating, and Epistemic Cognitive Development in Food System Education Programs: Theory + Practice. See breakout sessions descriptions below the conference schedule.

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Conference Schedule



Teaching About Food Systems Schedule:  
Creating a Community of Practice

Irving Cancer Research Center (ICRC), 1130 St. Nicholas Avenue, 1st floor
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

8:00 AM

On-site Registration

Columbia University Medical Center, Irving Cancer Research Center conference room, 1130 St. Nicholas Avenue, 1st floor

8:00-9:00 AM

Coffee will be served

9:00-9:40 AM

Getting to Systemic Analyses of Food Systems

Molly Anderson, PhD, Professor of Food Studies at Middlebury College

9:45-10:25 AM

Holistic Problem Solving: A System-Based Approach to Understanding the World

Michael Deaton, PhD, Integrated Science and Technology Professor at James Madison University

10:30-10:45 AM

Coffee break and Sign-up for Second Day Workshops

10:45 AM-12:00 PM

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

12:00-1:30 PM

Lunch, Columbia University Faculty Club, 630 West 168th Street, 4th floor
(Sign-up for second day workshops)

1:30-3:00 PM

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

3:00-3:40 PM

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

Ryan Galt, PhD, Associate Professor of Agricultural Sustainability and Society at the University of California, Davis

3:30-4:00 PM

Coffee break and Final Sign-up for Second Day Workshops

4:00-5:30 PM

Agro-ecology Panel: Lessons Learned in Systems Approaches to Teaching Food Systems
Eleanor Sterling, PhD, moderator
Allen Hance, PhD; Nick Jordan, PhD; Ruth DeFries, PhD; and Shahid Naeem, PhD;


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hammer Health Sciences Building (HSC) , 701 West 168th Street, room locations to be announced at the end of Day 1

9:00-10:30 AM

Facilitated Breakout Session 1

10:30-12:00 PM

Facilitated Breakout Session 2

12:00-1:30 PM


1:30-3:00 PM

Facilitated Breakout Session 3

3:00-4:00 PM

Summary and Next Steps

4:00-5:00 PM

Wine and Cheese, Hammer Knowledge Center, (HSC) 1st floor



Breakout sessions for Day 2 include:

Food System Sustainability Through a Food Rights and Equity Lens
Session Leader: Pam Koch, EdD, RD, Teachers College, Columbia University

In this jigsaw activity, each small group explores a quote from Molly Anderson on food as a right or from Julie Guthman on working toward equity in the alternative food movement. One "expert" stays at each group while others rotate to to add depth to the discussions on each quote. The session ends with a large group sharing on how we can deepen our focus on food rights and food equity as we teach about food system sustainability.


Integrating infectious disease and food systems in the classroom
Session Leader: Debbie Humphries, PhD, MPH, Yale University

While teaching about the global food system is sufficiently complex on its own, adding the overlay of patterns of infectious disease (with emphasis on the global south) adds additional challenges. I’ve been teaching a course that addresses issues of malnutrition, food systems and infectious disease since 1999, and anticipate sharing the challenges and some of the things I’ve learned about helping students understand both. I will start the session by highlighting my approach(es) through the years, and then invite participants to share their own successes and challenges in teaching about infectious disease and nutrition. The session will be appropriate for those who have experience teaching about these issues and also those who are just starting to think about infectious diseases in the context of the food system.


Integrating Racial Equity and Food Justice into our Personal Lives, our Professional Lives, and Learning Environments
Session Leaders: Joanne Burke, PhD, RD, LD, University of New Hampshire and Karen Spiller

As we grow ever more aware of the role that race plays in our daily lives, and as our food system work matures, the need to address racial inequality and food injustice practices, both historical and currently experienced, becomes ever more apparent. Participants will explore strategies to develop and expand their personal and professional capacity to more authentically, systematically and structurally address issues of racial equity and food justice.

Upon completion of this community of practice roundtable exploration, individuals will be able to
• Identify the rationale for explicitly addressing racial equity, food justice and implicit bias as integral to food system training
• Define and recognize subtle as well as overt indicators of concepts such as, but not limited to, implicit bias, white privilege, food justice and food system inequities
• Describe strategies that promote ongoing individual, professional, and student/community capacity to explore and thoughtfully address racial justice and food equity
• Identify selected resources, including but not limited to the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial equity challenge, that support on ongoing commitment to racial equity and food justice
• Begin to Identify core concepts, and demonstrated competency outcomes for students engaged in food system education and training related to racial equity and food justice.


Learning about systems: Applying systems thinking tools.
Session Leader: Helen De Pinho, MBBCh, FCCH, MBA, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

This hands-on workshop will focus on approaches to develop systems thinking competencies among a variety of audiences including students, practitioners and policy makers. During this workshop I will share my experience of teaching systems using a variety of modalities, including large classes, online, and in the field. In the time available, I will introduce a few of the systems thinking tools that I have used, including rich pictures, interrelationship digraphs, and causal loop diagrams, and share some of the challenges to teaching systems thinking that I have experienced. Through our discussions I hope that this will form the basis of developing a community of good practice in teaching systems thinking.


On Cooking, Thinking and Eating
Session Leaders: Isaac DeLamatre and Lew Trelawny-Cassity, PhD, Antioch College

In this breakout session, Lew, assistant professor of philosophy at Antioch College, and Isaac, Food Service Coordinator at Antioch College, will discuss a course we recently designed and co-taught, "On Cooking, Eating, and Thinking". This course takes a philosophical and practical approach to how, what, and why we eat. Over the course of the term we read and discussed works by Leon Kass, Jonathan Sarfran Foer, Mailyn Fidler, Micheal Twitty, Wendell Berry, Chloe Taylor, Thich Nhat Hanh and more. We emphasized class discussion and hands on participation to explore persistent questions about food issues while also teaching recipes and basic culinary skills including basic fermentation, kimchee making, fresh egg pasta, wild game, and bread. This breakout session will emphasize ways to incorporate the humanities into food studies, present successful examples of staff-faculty collaboration, and address community-building and cultural knowledge as learning objectives. Lew and Isaac are excited to share their class with others in the field of food studies, and would like to discuss the development of curriculum around food, farming, and experiential learning.


Visualizing Complex Food Systems Concepts with Infographics
Session Leader: Carmen Byker-Shanks, PhD, Montana State University

The digital age is producing copious amounts of data. Food systems students need to know how to sort through this information, filter what is most important, and translate to the public. Learn methods for teaching your students how to access data, present findings visually using infographics, and disseminate via social media platforms. This session will include hands-on practice creating an infographic and assignment templates modifiable for use in your own classrooms. Big picture discussion will focus on the role of technology and social media in food systems education.


Threshold Process for Understanding and Applying Systems Principles
Session Leader: Will Valley, PhD, University of British Columbia

This session will describe the theoretical framework of threshold concepts and explore its relevance to the relationship between epistemic and ontological cognitive development (EOCD) and applying systems principles to complex problems. Threshold concepts are defined as concepts that are essential for the mastery of a particular disciplinary framework (Meyer & Land, 2005). Further, they are key concepts that need to be understood before a student can develop beyond the stage of novice. 

Studies of personal epistemology focus on “how the individual develops conceptions of knowledge and knowing and utilizes them in developing understanding of the world” (Hofer & Pintrich, 2002, p. 4). These studies are interested in “beliefs about the definition of knowledge, how knowledge is constructed, how knowledge is evaluated, where knowledge resides, and how knowing occurs” (ibid). Systems thinking, based on the principles of holism and pluralism, is necessary for dealing with issues of complexity and uncertainty (Bawden, 2007). Both holism and pluralism require complex ontological beliefs and epistemic cognitive skills (Bawden, 2007).

By integrating Reflective Judgment Model (King & Kitchener, 1994) and Model of Epistemic and Ontological Cognitive Development (Greene, Torney-Purta, & Azevedo, 2010), I position EOCD as having the characteristics of a threshold concept for systems thinking; however, I argue further that the term threshold process is a more accurate descriptor for EOCD in relation to systems thinking. I will present pedagogical activities for promoting EOCD and developing systems thinking competencies. You will have the opportunity to discuss your own practices relative to teaching about systems.


Using value chain analysis to examine the trade-offs of food production and consumption
Session Leaders: Shauna Downs, PhD, Columbia University and Kate Burrows, American Museum of Natural History

This workshop will provide an overview of value chain analysis 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 food value chains and the environmental and nutrition/health implications of the way we produce, process, distribute, sell and consume food.


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 Plenarist, Panelist and Moderator Biographies: Click here to view!



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 (

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Contact Us

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