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Baltimore Food Systems: A Case Study of Urban Food Environments

East Baltimore
Note: Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, this course was held in a virtual/online format.
3rd Term
Environmental Health and Engineering
Academic Year
2020 - 2021
Instruction Method
Class Time(s)
W, F, 10:00 - 11:50am
Auditors Allowed
Available to Undergraduate
Grading Restriction
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor(s)
Contact Name
Frequency Schedule
Every Year
Next Offered
2024 - 2025
Baltimore provides a powerful case study of food system challenges and action. The city is on the leading edge of food system change in the U.S. It also has a long way to go in improving outcomes and equity on dimensions including food security, nutrition, food justice, labor conditions, food waste, and food system resilience. There is much to learn from observing how the city’s food system has been affected by COVID-19, and from the extensive response that has been mounted.
Challenges students to look closely at the city’s complex food systems, policies and interventions, and approaches to change. Includes seminar discussions and the chance to hear perspectives from speakers active in the city’s food system. Presents guided "backstage" tours at sites such as a food assistance program and an urban farm (via video in 2021). Includes rich individual-level insights through oral history interviews. Emphasizes readings that lean toward qualitative research literature. Examines the interconnectedness of issues and the impacts of power, stakeholder interests, systems, demand, supply, finances, policy, administrative and logistical issues, history, and culture. Emphasizes questioning assumptions, thinking in systems, and building from strengths. Discussions and lectures connect lessons from Baltimore to other cities’ food systems; and from food to other urban systems.
Learning Objectives
Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  1. Analyze responses to challenges and opportunities within Baltimore's food system
  2. Discuss key factors that have shaped food systems in Baltimore and other urban locales
  3. Describe from first-hand experience the clientele, operations, key opportunities, and challenges in advancing positive change in Baltimore food and agriculture system sites
  4. Discuss innovative food system interventions being considered in Baltimore and elsewhere
  5. Describe how food systems and food environments relate to public health broadly and environmental public health more specifically
  6. Conduct and document oral history interviews
  7. Comment on how the city’s history has contributed to the current food system
Methods of Assessment
This course is evaluated as follows:
  • 25% Participation
  • 28% Reflection
  • 25% Final Paper
  • 22% Oral history
Enrollment Restriction
No auditors allowed.
Special Comments

Students do not need to be based in Baltimore. In 2021, we will use video and other creative adaptations to replace the course’s traditional field trips.