STFS 330: Sustainability and Food Production in Italy

Instructor: Elisa Ascione - Ph.D.
Credits: 3
Course/Lab Fee: 95€ for a day trip (course reader fee announced by the Print Shop)
Prerequisite: None
Cross-Listing: Anthropology & Sociology, Courses with Service Learning Components, Environmental Studies, Food Studies

Students travel to Tuscany to learn from the world-famous butcher Dario Cecchini.

Course Description

There are more than six billion humans on the planet and, consequently, there is a growing need for ever-higher food production, that is contributing to faster use of non-renewable fossil fuels and environmental degradation. What modes of food production and consumption may be viable, sustainable responses to this problem? What are some alternative models of food production? What can we learn from Italian food cultures in terms of sustainability?

This course focuses on the radical increase in food production over the last decades and the ecological and social problems it has created, as well as on some possible solutions: the organic movement, Slow Food, and the shift towards local food. We will cast a critical eye on these movements and analyze their ability to change the trajectory of the global food production system.


Course Objectives

  • Consider the complex interplay of social and political factors in  food policies
  • Analyze the whole chain of production, distribution, and consumption of food between various foods to determine their sustainability
  • Compare the (political) geneses of the alternative food movements in Italy and the United States

Note: This course may be taken individually. Student do not have to be enrolled in the Food Studies Program to take this course.


Service Learning Project Description

Students dedicate a portion of class time to developing RepEAT, a take-home box project, in an effort to reduce avoidable food waste and inform others about its environmental and social impact. The project began in Fall 2013 with student-led research of patron and restaurant opinions of the takeaway concept, as well as Italians’ eating habits. Based on the initial analysis, students designed a logo and slogan produced by the muncipal waste management company, and created informational materials which were distributed to three local restaurants. Students will evaluate the effectiveness of the project, modify the materials, and expand the project to other restaurants in Perugia. The project is generously being sponsored by the City of Perugia. See a video about the project here.


Course Materials
Mandatory course reader in addition to James McWilliams’ Just Food.


Field Trip

Students will take a day trip to Panzano in Chianti in Tuscany where they will learn from Dario Cecchini, a world-famous butcher who uses a sustainable “whole-cow” method.