Bite Me 2.0: A Learning Community on Food Security & Sustainability

Michael Hanson (Botany/Science) & Michael Meyer (English/Arts and Humanities)
Bellevue College


This is a 10-11 credit interdisciplinary, learning community composed of life science courses and English composition courses. The focus of the course is food security and sustainable food production. We examine our behaviors, choices, responsibilities and the consequences of our actions to the environment, other humans and other life forms. We extend this examination to our communities, nation and the entire globe by examining ecosystem interconnections and how we, as humans, fit into these interconnections. We also teach Bite Me: Consumption in the U.S.: A Learning Community on the Ethics of Food, Clothing, and Shelter Choices, which is also in this course collection at

Course Size:

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is an introductory, interdisciplinary, learning community course with no prerequisites and does not serve as a prerequisite for other courses. All course options satisfy general education requirements and are transferable. Students can enroll in a lab science course and an English composition course (11 credits) or a non-lab science course and an English composition course or as a non-lab science course (10 credits). Students have the option of enrolling in one of four Science courses and one of six English courses.

Course Content:

The overarching goal of the course is to provide skills and space for the cultivation of self-learning and peer to peer dialogue and debate within a learning community. The course is rooted in seminar discussions around the primary texts, which are chosen for their relevance to the areas of food security and sustainability in relation to environmental justice, social justice and economic justice. Lecture consists primarily of implementing the biogeochemical cycles and symbiotic interactions as models of sustainability that we can use in developing sustainable, stable and equitable food systems. Students are encouraged to contribute current news that is relevant to the course; this discussion is used as lecture material related to logic, beliefs and evidence-based analyses.

Course Goals:

In addition to the individual course outcomes we have the following learning community outcomes: The student will be able to:
  • Demonstrate, both verbally and in writing, how each human has an impact on sustainability.
  • Demonstrate the importance of using critical thinking and the scientific method to understand how human activities affect the limited resources of our planet.
  • Demonstrate the ability to differentiate their personal opinions and assumptions from the author's.
  • Practice teamwork and collaboration skills to explore ideas cooperatively, respect others' insights and opinions and develop areas of consensus and agreement.
  • Develop attitudes of responsibility for one's own learning.
  • Demonstrate skills for carrying on productive dialogue on controversial topics.
  • Demonstrate critical reading skills to be able to understand, compare and contrast, and evaluate the strength of an author's argument.

Course Features:

The course and instructors employ multiple teaching modes: lectures, discussions, seminars, experiential learning and movies/videos. Specific experiential and/or field learning assignments include:
  • Greenhouse journal: students plant, maintain and observe plants in the greenhouse. Activities are recorded throughout the quarter in a journal. The journal also includes an end-of-quarter reflection.
  • Agency site report: students visit a local nonprofit agency that provides services in an area relevant to the course work and write a formal report meeting provided objectives.
  • Nutrition analysis: students record all food intake for five consecutive days and input this data into a nutritional analysis program.
  • Consumption log: students record all purchases for 48 hours and produce a written reflection of the experience.
  • Ecological footprint of food: students calculate the number of miles their food travels from the growing source to their plate, average amount of pesticides and average amount of fertilizers applied to their food.
  • Buy no food day: students buy nothing for 24 hours and produce a written reflection of the experience.
  • Learning Community feast: students design, produce and share a sustainable, nutritious meal.
  • Garden Design: students design gardens for their living space.
  • Group project (for science-lab students): Each student group designs a campus-based program focused on sustainability. The culmination of the project is a group-written document and presentation to the whole class.
The course includes English composition. All composition students compile a portfolio over the quarter and submit it for grading at the end of the quarter. English 101 and 271 students compose four formal essays (3-5 pages) and English 201 students compose three (two 3-5 page papers and one 8-12 page research paper). All formal essays go through a peer-workshop and receive instructor feedback before the final portfolio is submitted. The types of papers typically range from personal narrative to synthesis and analysis. All students also write two seminar papers (500 words/paper) per week, and the mid-term and final exams are essay exams.

Course Philosophy:

The focus of this course is the impacts of lifestyle choices in regard to food. We will examine our behaviors, choices, responsibilities and the consequences of our actions to our communities, nation and the entire globe by investigating ecosystem interconnections. Through our readings and discussions, we will evaluate diverse opinions and values in order to scrutinize our own personal beliefs.


Assessment: Writing skills: writing portfolios, seminar papers
Analytic reading skills: seminar papers, discussions, exams
Critical thinking skills: essays, seminar papers, exams, greenhouse journal
Collaboration skills: labs, greenhouse journals, group projects, meal planning, study & writing groups


References and Notes:

Jacobsen R. American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters and Fields. New York: Bloomsbury; 2010.

Nestle M. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. Revised ed. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2007.

Pollan M. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. New York: Penguin; 2009.

Singer P. and Mason J. The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Books; 2007.

Holt-Gimenez E. and Patel R. Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice. Oxford: Pambazuka Press; 2009.

Millstone E. and Lang T. The Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where, and Why. Revised ed. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2008.

Food Origins and Nutrition Basics (Acrobat (PDF) 96kB Dec31 11)

Fresh. 2009. Ana Sofia Joanes (dir.).
King Corn. 2007. Aaron Woolf (dir.).
Food, Inc. 2008. Robert Kenner (dir.).
The Botany of Desire. 2009. Michael Schwarz (dir.).
Dirt! The Movie. 2009. Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow (dir.).
Broken Limbs: Apples, Agriculture, and the New American Farmer. 2004. Jamie Howell and Guy Evans (dir.).