Skip Navigation

Center for a Livable Future


Bloomberg School Courses

Food System Sustainability Practicum (180.605)

Roni Neff, Instructor; Meg Burke, Assistant Instructor
Fourth term: onsite (3 credits)
Prerequisite: none
Enrollment Limit: 20 students
Practicum: This course fulfills 55 practicum hours for MPH students and others required to perform practica (students who do not need practica are also welcome!)
Contact Roni Neff for more information.
Course website


Brief Practicum Description

Converging crises in resource depletion and contamination, climate change, and population – and extensive food waste, inefficiency and overuse – combine to create unprecedented threats to longterm food security and thus to the public’s health. There is need for effective, system-oriented responses, with concern for impacts on inequities. Addressing these environmental crises often yields nutritional and other public health co-benefits. This practicum course provides students the opportunity to learn about selected food system sustainability issues, assist organizations working for positive change, and learn from the experience. 

This is a 3-credit course including 2 hours/week in-class and 4 hours/week out of class for practica.

In class, one of the two hours is devoted to discussion of student experiences at their sites. The second hour will introduce selected topics in food system environmental sustainability.  Each week, different site preceptors will be invited to give interactive talks on their topics, as well as touching on their careers and how they got where they are.  Students will be assigned relevant readings, and will also be asked to maintain journals about their practicum experiences.  

The service-learning/practicum component will take place in teams. Students will choose from among several practica based on their interest, time, vehicle availability, etc. Practica may involve tasks such as developing materials, performing research, assisting with day-to-day activities, or doing outreach. In the first week, students will receive training from their program site directors, as well as training in service-learning basics.  Subsequently, each week students will spend approximately four hours on their practicum activities.

The final paper includes two options: a) take an aspect of the site or site experience, and reflect on it along a structured set of criteria, bringing in academic literature; b) select an alternate food system sustainability topic of interest and write the paper discussing one practical approach to addressing it, using some of the major themes that have arisen in the course to structure the discussion — i.e., applying course learning to this new area. 

Course Objectives

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Discuss selected topics in food system environmental sustainability, including key interventions, challenges and opportunities.
  • Describe the operation of a program or project related to food system sustainability, and the site’s relationship with its community.
  • Reflect on the student’s own role as a professional engaging with an organization, including identifying strengths and areas for further improvement.
  • Discuss the contributions to food system environmental sustainability of the programs students in the class worked with, and otherwise draw broader lessons from these site experiences.

Examples of Work/Activities

NOTE—Examples are illustrative only. 

  • Assist MD Food Bank project to prevent food waste and feed hungry, by packaging fresh produce that would otherwise have been wasted for distribution and writing a report to help improve program operations
  • Assist an urban farm with planting out produce and/or developing a business plan
  • Assist a program working to educate about food system sustainability issues by performing focus groups to test messages, or designing communication materials
  • Assist the Baltimore Orchards Project by developing and implementing an advocacy strategy to enable developing an urban food forest in Baltimore

Name(s) of Partnering Agency / Organizations

The specific organizations will be determined following course approval. Examples of types of organizations include an urban farm, a composting organization, a food recovery program, an education/communication program.

Meeting Schedule (if applicable)

Fridays 1:30-3:20

Application Process (if applicable): TBD