An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

Explore how food intersects with public health and the environment as it moves from field to plate.

About The Course

A food system encompasses the activities, people and resources involved in getting food from field to plate. Along the way, it intersects with aspects of public health, equity and the environment.  In this course, we will provide a brief introduction to the U.S. food system and how food production practices and what we choose to eat impacts the world in which we live. Through several case studies, we will discuss some key historical and political factors that have helped shape the current food system and consider alternative approaches from farm to fork. The course will be led by a team of faculty and staff from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.  Guest lecturers will include experts from a variety of disciplines, including public health and agriculture.

Beginning with the January 2015 session, the course will include 2 or 3 new lectures from Bob Lawrence and Roni Neff to update learners on the latest developments. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is covered in this course?

    This course provides only a brief introduction to the food system of the United States. The topic of food systems is broad and complex and not all topics or issues can be covered in the time allotted for this course.

  • Who should take this course?

    This course is intended for students with a sincere interest in exploring food systems of the United States through a public health lens and is meant to raise questions and generate healthy and civil discussion about what we eat and how that food gets from farm to fork. Students will be expected to represent themselves honestly and respect the diverse ideas presented in the course by faculty, guest lecturers and other students.

Recommended Background

An understanding of public health or nutrition is helpful but not necessary. As farmer and poet Wendell Berry noted, “Eating is an agricultural act.”