InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Future of Food > Student Materials > Module 10: Food Systems  > Module 10.1: Food Systems > Activate Your Learning: Food's Journey in the Food System
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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These student materials complement the Future of Food Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.

Activate Your Learning: Food's Journey in the Food System

Food systems comprise the interacting parts of human society and nature that deliver food to households and communities (see the previous page), and can be used to understand food in its relation to the earth system. To better understand food systems, in the exercise below you'll be asked to consider a familiar food of your choice, and the journey this food takes from where it is produced to the meals that we consume every day. Within the food supply chain for this food, you'll be asked to distinguish between social (human system) aspects and environmental (natural system) aspects of that product's food production and supply chain.

Activate Your Learning Activity:

In the blanks below, fill in the blanks regarding the supply chain for a food products. You can also download a Word document worksheet here (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB Jan3 18) for filling in offline, or as part of a classroom activity. As depicted in Fig. 10.1.3, you'll need to give the origin, some intermediate destinations, and then the final consumption point for the food product. Then you should think of some social or human system dimensions of the production, supply chain, or consumption of this product, as well as some ecological or natural system dimensions and fill in the corresponding blanks. Do this first for a product familiar to you, whose supply chain you either know about or can research quickly (part 1). Then repeat the activity for a food product in the online introductory video from the first page of this module, about food systems in Vietnam (part 2). When you are done with each part you can click on the 'answers' link in the below each part, and see how your answers match up.

Figure 10.1.3. Illustration of source/production areas, intermediate destinations, and consumption points for typical food products from the activity below.

Exercise 1:

Fill in the blanks below. If you are doing this online, just note your answers on a piece of paper regarding the food product you have chosen, or download the worksheet here (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB Jan3 18). When you are done you can click on the 'answers' link below to see some possible examples and see if your answers match up with these answers.

  1. Food product ______________________________
  2. Food supply Chain:
    1. Source: Where main raw material is produced, fished, hunted: ___________________________
    2. Intermediate destination 1: ___________________________ (e.g processing plant, washing, trucking, warehouse, etc.)
    3. Intermediate destination 2: ___________________________ (e.g processing plant, washing, trucking, warehouse, etc.)
    4. Intermediate destination 2: ___________________________ (if needed)
    5. Consumption point: ___________________________
  3. Up to three social or human system dimensions of this food chain (e.g. policy, economic, or cultural factors associated with the production and consumption of this food, recall the Human System factors in a Coupled Human Natural Framework, module 1.2)
    1. _______________
    2. _______________
    3. _______________
  4. Up to three ecological or natural system dimensions of this food chain: (ecological factors would include crop and animal species, agroecosystems, climate, water, and soil influences on food production):
    1. _______________
    2. _______________
    3. _______________

Example answers

(These may be a good deal more complete than your examples but give a sense of the range of possible answers)

Example Answer 1 - frozen, breaded fish filet from a local supermarket:

Example Answer 2 - Bagel or bread from a local bake or coffee shop:

Exercise 2:

Recall the video celebrating world food day 2013, World Food Day 2013 Video: the Vietnamese "Garden, Pond, Livestock Plan" (V.A.C) food system". You may want to quickly skim the video again and note the food pathways that foods are following in these systems. Then choose either a product that is consumed within the household that appears in the video or one that is sold outside the household (some products fit into both categories). Fill in the same set of production and transport steps for this product as you did in part 1, as well as some social and ecological aspects. You can use a piece of scrap paper or the downloaded worksheet. Note that a product consumed in this farming household may have a very short food supply chain!

Look at the following worksheet and fill in the blanks corresponding to the blanks below. When you are done you can click on the 'answers' link to see some possible examples and see if your answers match up with these answers.

  1. Food product ______________________________
  2. Food supply Chain:
    1. Source: Where main raw material is produced, fished, hunted: ___________________________
    2. Intermediate destination 1: ___________________________ (e.g processing plant, washing, trucking, warehouse, etc.)
    3. Intermediate destination 2: ___________________________ (e.g processing plant, washing, trucking, warehouse, etc.)
    4. Intermediate destination 2: ___________________________ (if needed)
    5. Consumption point: ___________________________
  3. Up to three social or human system dimensions of this food chain (e.g. policy, economic, or cultural factors associated with the production and consumption of this food, recall the Human System factors in a Coupled Human Natural Framework, module 1.2)
    1. _______________
    2. _______________
    3. _______________
  4. Up to three ecological or natural system dimensions of this food chain: (ecological factors would include crop and animal species, agroecosystems, climate, water, and soil influences on food production):
    1. _______________
    2. _______________
    3. _______________

Example Answers

Example for the Vietnam VAC food system example:


These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »