Fertile Ground

Online Certificate Program

UMass Degree Program

Continuing & Professional Education



Food justice and Policy STOCKSCH 397P – Spring 2013



Food Justice and Policy

Spring Semester - 3 credits

MW 9:05am-9:55am & W 9:05am-12:05pm

Pre-requisite: PLSOILIN 265 Sustainable Agriculture or permission of the instructor

Description: This course examines the role of policy in determining WHAT we eat, WHO experiences barriers to access to safe, healthy, local, fairly produced foods, and HOW we create equity and sustainability in our local food system. We will look at the basic components of our food system: production, distribution, and consumption. We will then examine systemic structures of race, class, citizenship and ability as they relate to access to healthy local food.


The course-work concludes with an in-depth look at food sovereignty, the right of communities to choose how their food is produced and what they consume, the impact of agribusiness and the concentration of resources into the hands of a few corporations, and the dramatic effect U.S. food policies have on the rest of the world.  Students will have the opportunity to engage in a service learning project with a community based organization  addressing systems and policy changes to food access in our region.


Instructor: Catherine Sands is a front-line community food systems organizer, educator, network facilitator, capacity builder, and evaluator/learning partner living in Western MA.  Catherine brings to her work a commitment to social change and a belief in the potential of groups of people coming together to create powerful solutions to entrenched social issues.  As director of Fertile Ground, a grassroots farm to school initiative established in 2001, Catherine develops curriculum-integrated teaching gardens and mentoring programs that unify school communities around growing fresh food and cultivating local knowledge. Catherine holds a Master’s degree from the University of MA/Amherst Center for Public Policy and Administration, with a focus on food access and social justice. In 2008, she was received the Outstanding Community Service and Engagement award by UMass/Amherst. An evaluator with the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council, Catherine is a member of a national evaluation team representing nine communities around the country who are working with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to develop participatory strategies to improve health and access to good food.


·        To acquire knowledge of today’s food system: how food is produced, distributed, and consumed.

·        To develop a critical analysis of how racism, privilege, and classism impact the U.S. food system

·        To understand key issues around equitable access to healthy, culturally appropriate food.

·        Learn about and critically evaluate efforts to address food systems: grassroots, policy and planning initiatives.

·        To develop new strategies and action plans for food justice. To explore and hone tools of respectful work in oppressed communities.


Course Requirements:

This is a student initiated and student led course. Students agree to take responsibility for planning and co-teaching the course material as well as learning it. The course requires full attendance and participation.


1.      Attendance: 20% participation 20% Class Assignments: 20%

Students are expected to attend all class discussions, come to class having read the material, and be ready to participate in critical dialogue. Three short writing assignments will be required. More than three unexcused absences constitutes an F.


2.      Co-facilitation of one week’s class (20%)

In groups, students will be responsible for co facilitation of part of one week’s class discussion, rooted in the week’s readings. We will discuss social justice facilitation techniques during the first weeks of class, and students will improve skills through constructive peer feedback.


3.      Final Project: individually or in a group of 2-5 members, students will produce a final project that amplifies the themes of this course. Projects will be presented in writing and to the class at the end of the semester. The project  could be a policy analysis, evaluation, grant proposal, media article or blog.


For information contact, Catherine Sands at;


This class satisfies a requirement in both the UMass SFF Certificate as well as the SFF major.  For information, contact Dr. John M. Gerber at;  


@2012 John M. Gerber