Sustainable Food Systems and Diets

Course content

Sustainable food systems and diets is and interdisciplinary course offered in collaboration by four Departments at Science KU. Based on a systemic understanding of the food system as a complex web of actors, businesses and institutions an interdisciplinary approach combining social and natural sciences will be applied within five themes:

  • Aspects affecting the environmental sustainability of primary production: farming systems; type of produce, fertilizers/pesticides, trophic level of food; food security, waste recycling.
  • The transformation and preservation of raw materials to maintain a good food quality (shelf life and sensory properties). Strategies to reduce waste in the food production chain, including minimization of energy and water use. Methods and technologies to utilize side-streams from production for human food consumption will be addressed.
  • Nutrition, diets and health: introducing different sustainable diets and their nutritional qualities. This topic will address issues like protein/nutrient quality from meat and plants as well as novel protein sources like insects. Include discussion of dietary/nutritional quality based on the NOVA food classification and the use of dietary guidelines.
  • Social and cultural aspects: aspects of social sustainability will be addressed along the importance of social and cultural factors constitute as a framework for changes of the food system. This includes the importance of social structures (culture, norms etc.) as well as the role social relations and individual factors like taste and acceptance of food technologies.
  • Food policy, economics and planning: this concluding theme will address how governance towards a sustainable food system must take economic factors as well as the power of different stakeholders into account. Based on this it will be discussed, how a sustainable food policy that takes the multitude of factors into account, can be developed.


The course features a comprehensive analysis of sustainability of a self-selected and a given meal in relation to the five themes mentioned above.


MSc Programme in Integrated Food Studies

Learning outcome

The aim of the course is to give the students insight in the complexity of analyzing and evaluating the sustainability of food systems and diets and interact/collaborate with different actors


The students will be able to:

  • describe and compare meals by applying a multi-disciplinary approach
  • identification of sustainability qualities – environmental, socially and economically.
  • describe basic models for sustainability assesments
  • describe food related concepts regarding their impact on sustainability issues.



The students will be able to:

  • analyze impact of food and meals on sustainability using a multi-disciplinary approach
  • Apply sustainability assessment models on food systems



The students will be able to:

  • critical evaluate current sustainability challenges in food systems
  • compare food systems according to their impact on sustainability
  • Propose and validate innovative solutions for transforming the current food system to a more sustainable system

The course consists of lectures, discussion forums, theoretical exercises, group work, quizzes, etc

See Absalon for a list of course literature.

Basic knowledge about system thinking related to food systems is recommended

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Students will get both written and oral feedback individually and collectively. Both peer feedback and feedback from teachers will be given at different times during the course

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio with both one written individual and one group assignment. Individual assignment and group assignment each contribute with 50%. Each element in the portfolio must be passed.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.
Criteria for exam assessment

Each element of the portfolio must be passed


Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 21
  • Preparation
  • 93
  • Theory exercises
  • 42
  • Project work
  • 50
  • English
  • 206