An Emerging Model: Slow Food

Marion Field Fass, Sc.D., Professor of Biology and Chair, Health and Society, Beloit College (Curriculum Vitae (Acrobat (PDF) 149kB Jul15 08)


Slow Food is one of the First Year Initiative (FYI) Seminars offered at Beloit College. These courses are full semester, non-disciplinary, discussion-based courses that emphasize the development of college learning skills including reading, writing, presentation and critical thinking. The instructor also serves as the academic advisor for the students during their first 3 semesters at Beloit College.

The course begins with the questions that the international Slow Food movement has raised about the impact of globalization on our food supply, the cultural and economic choices involved in food consumption, and the loss of biodiversity. Students explore our "foodshed" and what foods are available locally and globally, as well as the impact of food production practices on the environment. Finally, they investigate programs to alleviate hunger and "food insecurity" at home and globally.

Survey design, data, collection, graphing, nutrition and metabolism, and energy are addressed and active learning pedagogies are employed. From the collaborative construction of the Farmer's Market questionnaire and its analysis to the final research project on global hunger, students spend at least one of every two class hours working in small groups with the teaching assistant and the instructor.

The course is continually being revised with the goal of enhancing the science content and the author hopes to use sessions at the SENCER Summer Institute to explore the incorporation of new topics that demonstrate the intersection of science and policy, including: sustainability, the implications of corn-based food economy, the use of fertilizers and pesticides and growth, and the virtues of organic food versus local food.

Outdoor market

Learning Goals

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • Analyze why we eat what we eat in terms of the contributions of:
    • Cost
    • Taste
    • Convenience
    • Culture, comfort
    • Corporations
  • Analyze the path of selected foods from producers to tables
  • Evaluate changes in the diet of Americans (in the last 100, 50, 20 years) and their impact on nutrition and the economy
  • Critique how the American diet impacts global economies and how the American economy affects global diets
  • Analyze the links between food and the local economy –
    • Who benefits from agriculture?
    • How does our food availability compare to other cities, other nations?
    • Can people in Beloit afford to eat well?
  • Evaluate the contributions of NGOs to alleviating hunger and creating a sustainable foodshed and make informed decisions about their value

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