Loyola University Chicago

School of Environmental Sustainability

Food Systems


This course has definitely exposed me to hands−on work that affects the community. I feel as if I have utilized skills that I have never had to before… This has also built team skills… and [the instructor] has been a tremendous help the entire time. – Student in STEP Food Systems

ENVS 350F: STEP Food Systems

The food system entails all of the materials and actions involved in feeding us. This includes the growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, preparing, consuming, and disposing of our food, as well as the environmental, political, economic, and cultural contexts in which they occur. The food system is complex and integrally related to a host of environmental and social challenges, such as environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, fair trade, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and hunger. STEP students learn about and design projects to help solve these challenges. 

Fall 2018 STEP: Food Systems Syllabus

Some lecture topics:

  • The origins of agriculture,
  • plant breeding and genetic engineering,
  • trends in human nutrition,
  • the U.S. Farm Bill,
  • global hunger,
  • environmental impacts of industrial agriculture,
  • urban agriculture,
  • sustainability in the food retail sector, and
  • Agroecology.


Readings include scientific studies, policy reports and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Examples of labs and field trips:

  • defining a sustainable meal,
  • responsible consumerism,
  • mapping food resources using Geographic Information Systems,
  • food preservation,
  • cooking with herbs and spices,
  • natural grocery store,
  • wholesale distributor, and
  • urban agriculture sites.

This engaged learning course was very different from any others I have taken in that it went outside of the classroom many times, and each field trip was a unique experience that addressed different important facets of the food system. – Student in STEP Food Systems

Here are some examples of student projects. Students:

  • Developed a business plan that led to launching the Loyola Farmers Market.
  • Investigated the best sustainable farming practices, which were implemented on the farm at Loyola's Retreat and Ecology Campus.
  • Researched and installed an apiary on campus.
  • Developed a campus food production plan resulting in the Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens.
  • Mobilized and coordinated students to create a new student group, the Growers Guild.
  • Designed pollinator-friendly habitat in Loyola’s Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens.
  • Designed and taught an after-school program on healthy eating to local elementary students.
  • Investigated indoor microgreens and sprouts production as a winter source of fresh produce.
  • Conducted a communications campaign to increase participation in composting.
  • Produced a case statement to support fundraising and outreach for the Greater Roseland Sustainability Initiative in partnership with the Greater Roseland West Pullman Food Network.

This course made me more aware of the food I eat and where it comes from. I have changed the way I grocery shop or eat at the dining halls in the hopes of being more sustainable. –Student in STEP Food Systems

For more information, contact STEP Coordinator Tania Schusler.