NNEK20003U Sustainable Food Systems and Diets

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programme in Integrated Food Studies


Sustainable food systems and diets is and interdisciplinary course offered in collaboration by four Departments at Science KU. Based on a systemic understanding of the food system as a complex web of actors, businesses and institutions an interdisciplinary approach combining social and natural sciences will be applied within five themes:

  • Aspects affecting the environmental sustainability of primary production: farming systems; type of produce, fertilizers/pesticides, trophic level of food; food security, waste recycling.
  • The transformation and preservation of raw materials to maintain a good food quality (shelf life and sensory properties). Strategies to reduce waste in the food production chain, including minimization of energy and water use. Methods and technologies to utilize side-streams from production for human food consumption will be addressed.
  • Nutrition, diets and health: introducing different sustainable diets and their nutritional qualities. This topic will address issues like protein/nutrient quality from meat and plants as well as novel protein sources like insects. Include discussion of dietary/nutritional quality based on the NOVA food classification and the use of dietary guidelines.
  • Social and cultural aspects: aspects of social sustainability will be addressed along the importance of social and cultural factors constitute as a framework for changes of the food system. This includes the importance of social structures (culture, norms etc.) as well as the role social relations and individual factors like taste and acceptance of food technologies.
  • Food policy, economics and planning: this concluding theme will address how governance towards a sustainable food system must take economic factors as well as the power of different stakeholders into account. Based on this it will be discussed, how a sustainable food policy that takes the multitude of factors into account, can be developed.


The course features a comprehensive analysis of sustainability of a self-selected and a given meal in relation to the five themes mentioned above.

Students are assigned randomly to groups and collaborate with other students from diverse fields in an interdisciplinary manner. This meal serves as a small-group case study that supports the contextual topics of the course with an application in practice. The student groups eventually prepare the meal in KU´s Gastro Science Lab, an advanced research kitchen for food exploration and innovation, and work independently to plan, develop and discuss the meal from a food systems perspective. The journey of the course allows the student to work interdisciplinary and in collaborative ways which is needed to solve today´s complex problems that the food system face.  

Learning Outcome

The aim of the course is to give the students insight in the complexity of analyzing and evaluating the sustainability of food systems and diets and interact/collaborate with different actors


The students will be able to:

  • describe and compare meals by applying a multi-disciplinary approach
  • identification of sustainability qualities – environmental, socially and economically.
  • describe basic models for sustainability assesments
  • describe food related concepts regarding their impact on sustainability issues.



The students will be able to:

  • analyze impact of food and meals on sustainability using a multi-disciplinary approach
  • apply sustainability assessment models on food systems



The students will be able to:

  • critical evaluate current sustainability challenges in food systems
  • compare food systems according to their impact on sustainability
  • propose and validate innovative solutions for transforming the current food system to a more sustainable system

See Absalon for a list of course literature.

Basic knowledge about system thinking related to food systems is recommended
The course incorporates various activities but is not limited to: lectures, small group and plenary discussions, theoretical exercises, group work, quizzes, Gastro Science Lab activities, and stakeholder engagement.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 21
  • Preparation
  • 93
  • Theory exercises
  • 42
  • Project work
  • 50
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Students will get both written and oral feedback individually and collectively. Both peer feedback and feedback from teachers will be given at different times during the course

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, during course
Type of assessment details
The exam consists of an individual written report with reflections over the project report and the course curriculum.
Exam registration requirements

Approved group report and active participation in peer feedback.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.

The same as the ordinary exam.

A group report that has already been approved may be reused. If the student has not submitted  and/or had the group report approved an individual report may be submitted three weeks and approved two weeks before the re-exam. 

Criteria for exam assesment

Please see "learning outcomes"