How can we train people in food systems thinking? The IFSTAL experience.
Our team of researchers at the Centre for Food Policy often reflect that Food Policy as a subject area is inherently inter-disciplinary. Food, in all its complexity, is an issue central to all our lives and addressed by many different academic fields. So, while our Centre for Food Policy is located in the Department of Sociology at City, within the Centre are graduates from many different disciplines, working in many different ways. From geography to nutrition, biochemistry to social psychology, our staff and students come together to think about food policy and wicked food problems with a wealth of perspectives and expertise.
These diverse viewpoints have helped us to recognize a reality of food policy – that global food challenges like food (in)security, animal health, food waste and food poverty can only be meaningfully tackled by many different disciplines working together, taking an integrated and inclusive approach. And that’s why it makes sense for our teaching to be trans- multi- and inter- disciplinary as well.
So how can we help students transcend disciplinary boundaries and differences? And can we analyse the food system holistically, taking account of the multiple actors and often competing goals? How can environmental objectives be combined with economic objectives, for example? How can nutritionists speak to the private sector? How do we take an integrated approach to achieve the political will for change? Our Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning (IFSTAL) programme uses systems thinking to enable students from many backgrounds to tackle global food challenges together.