The core courses are obligatory for all students enrolled in the M.A. Program.  They are designed to provide in-depth knowledge on the different aspects of food production and consumption that characterize the contemporary world food system. They emphasize the relevance of different disciplines for the analysis and the importance of locating and evaluating the sources of the very rich information surrounding food throughout its chain from production to processing, distribution, marketing and consumption.

Through the core courses students will be able to identify their main area of interest, choose the electives corresponding to their preferred course of study and start considering the topic for their thesis.  The core courses will be based on primary sources, relevant academic literature and actual policy documents on particular topics.  They will be conducted through classroom lectures with student engagement, discussions with professional guest speakers, visits to the Rome-based UN and CGIAR Agencies, on-site classes in Rome and in rural areas of Italy.

  • Food, Environment and Society (3 credits)
  • Food Policy (3 credits)
  • Nutrition Policies and Programs (3 credits)
  • Research Methods for Social Sciences (3 credits)
  • Sustainable Food Systems (3 credits)

Food, Environment and Society (3 credits)

How do we affect the Earth’s resources with our food choices? This course covers the interrelationship of food and the environment: it reviews the global agri-food system, its structure and evolution with particular reference to global food security. Through an interdisciplinary perspective, it will discuss the existing knowledge on the major global challenges for food production, including climate change, depletion of natural resources and changes in diets. The social, economic, cultural and psychological determinants of food consumption habits and patterns will be analyzed with the view to exploring the linkages between sustainable production and sustainable diets.The governance of the agro-food system will be examined: the mandates of the UN agencies, the main regulatory frameworks, the intergovernmental processes, the transnational and national civil society and social movements. The course includes one or more field trips to a UN Agency.

Food Policy (3 credits)

This course reviews the rationale, instruments and practice of food policy. It provides an overview of the conceptual background, features and aims of food policies, and the regulatory frameworks in both industrialized and non-industrialized countries. The first part of the course discusses the different approaches followed and the disciplinary contributions to the policy and practice from agriculture, health, trade and the environment perspectives highlighting the conditions that influence the formulation of food policies. The second part covers the evolution of food policies and regulations at the global, regional and national levels and their implications. Specific mechanisms and policy instruments will be highlighted, including the Codex Alimentarius and the international trade agreements.

Nutrition Policies and Programs (3 credits)

The course covers nutrition from a public health and environmental policy perspective, as debated and  applied at both international and national levels.  The main definitions and concepts are provided related to  macro and micronutrient requirements, human metabolism and diet-related diseases, such as under-nutrition, malnutrition and over-nutrition.  Special emphasis will be given to food safety and food safety policies, including foodborne pathogens and surveillance, antibiotic resistance, food labeling, food additives and allergens, chemical use in food production, genetic modification of food and the new genome editing techniques applied to agriculture.   The course analyzes critically current nutrition problems and challenges and reviews the regulatory frameworks and policy options towards healthy, balanced and environmentally sustainable diets.

Research Methods for Social Sciences (3 credits)

This course enables students to appraise the main aspects, potential and limits of theoretical and applied social research methods, and to use them appropriately according to their specific research needs. The course covers the epistemology of social science and the logic of research design. It reviews the steps in the research process from the research idea to the research questions, formulation of hypotheses and deciding on method. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods will be described and practiced. The main methodological problems of quantitative and qualitative analysis, data gathering, data quality and interpretation of evidence will be discussed. Presentation skills for researchers will be explained and practiced.

Sustainable Food Systems (3 credits)

The aim of the course is to review the conceptual and analytical frameworks for the ‘sustainability’ of the food system and to analyze how sustainability is pursued in practice by different actors. The food system refers to all processes involved in the production, processing, consumption and disposal of food; it implies the involvement of different sectors, disciplines and stakeholders and the intersection with aspects of public health, environment as well as social and economic development. The course will review and analyze the co-existence of multiple contemporary food systems and their sustainability, from the global to the community level, from primary production to agribusiness, including the role of institutional actors and social movements in imagining and practicing alternatives to the current industrial food system.  The course includes transferable skills related to management of projects dealing with sustainability.  One or more field trips to regional and local food systems in Italy will also be included.