Explore Italian Culture through Food!

Food, Sustainability & Environmental Studies

The program in Food, Sustainability, & the Environment (FSE) at Umbra invites students and professors to participate in the study of food systems, sustainability and the environment. Whether enrolling in semester or summer courses, participating in the biennial Food Conference, or leading a group of students to discover the complexities of Italian food culture, the Umbra Institute engages with scholars, professors, and students seeking to develop a deeper understanding of global food systems, sustainability, and the environment.

The Program in Food, Sustainability, & Environment

The Program in Food, Sustainability, & Environment (FSE) offers a semester-long, interdisciplinary certificate program open to all students with an interest in food, sustainability, and the environment. It is particularly well-suited to those hoping to cultivate a career in the food or environmental industries, or seeking to continue their education at the graduate level.

This program includes a series of co- and extracurricular activities that are an integral part of the curriculum; they include guest lectures, site visits, field trips, culinary activities, research projects, and other hands-on experiences. These activities allow students to directly observe the concepts studied in the classroom and analyze issues surrounding food, sustainability and the environment in an Italian and global context from varied perspectives.

Certificate Program Curriculum

All students who successfully complete the FSE and meet the certification requirements will receive a certificate of completion from the Umbra Institute. In addition to the two certificates below, the FSE also offers a Dual Certificate for which students take the required Italian class, the 1-credit core class, and two classes from each of the two tracks.

Certificate in
Food Studies

For the Certificate in Food Studies, students would take a 4-credit
Italian class and then have the following curriculum:

Mandatory Core:
FSST 100: Experiencing Sustainable Italian Foodways (1 credit)

Three courses with FSST titles (12 credits)
Total: 17 credits 

Certificate in
Sustainability &
Environmental Studies

For the Certificate in Environmental Studies & Sustainability, students would take a 4 credit Italian class and then have the following curriculum:

Mandatory Core:
FSST 100: Experiencing Sustainable Italian Foodways (1 credit)

Three courses with either SUS or ENV titles (12 credits)
Total: 17 credits


ANTH /FSST / SOC 375: Anthropology of Food and Eating: Understanding Self and Others

Read More

BUS / COMM / FSST 355: Digital Marketing: Wine and Wineries of Central Italy

Read More

Private: ENG / FSST 325: From Literature to Social Media: Reading and Writing Italian Food

Read More

ENV / SOC / FSST 330: Sustainable Food Production in Italy – Local Traditions and Global Transformations

Read More

Private: ENV / FSST / GSCI 320: Water Resources: Environment, Society, and Power

Read More

BUS / ENV 365: Tourism for Sustainable Development: Italian and Global Models

Read More

BUS / ENV 340: Global Sustainable Business

Read More

ENV 395: Mafia and the Environment: The Fight Against Organized Crime

Read More

FSST / HIST / SOC 350: The History and Culture of Food in Italy

Read More


Explore Italy’s History & Culture

through Food

Apply Now


Institutional Research

While teaching is central to the Institute’s mission, research serves both didactic and professional goals. Recent faculty research has included a monograph on the food businesses of Italian emigrants in Belgium, an edited collection on representations of Italian food, a critical analysis of the meaning of heritage in food, and a handbook for Italian winemakers looking to export to the United States. Current projects include a monograph on Italian sagre, an article exploring the absence of the enologist’s laboratory in the discourse about food landscapes, and anthropological research on fisherfolk’s perceptions of fish in Lago Trasimeno. This research not only keeps the faculty actively involved with academic discussions on food, but also provides readings for courses and opportunities for students to engage in faculty projects.

The Institute also promotes student research through faculty-led independent study projects or the more intensive semester-long Scholars Program. A recent student project on the Italian aversion to taking food home from restaurants led to a three-year-long community engagement project with the City of Perugia known as RepEAT, designed to promote doggie bags in the city’s restaurants. Students have also presented their research several times at both the biennial food conference and the Association for the Study of Food & Society. Two FSE students recently won awards for their research in Perugia from the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition and the Forum on International Education.

Ongoing Research Project

The Institute is currently creating a long-term institutional research project in collaboration with the City of Perugia and the Region of Umbria. This five-year project will also develop an online wiki of Umbrian foods and foodways. Umbra students will contribute text, photographs, interviews, and video to the first bilingual archive of its type.

Our Didactic Kitchen

The Institute’s didactic kitchen, located in the Institute, is the ideal venue to explore food chemistry as well as to provide students with hands-on, non-credit-bearing activities that complement their classroom studies. Click here to learn more about what can be discovered through Umbra’s co- and extra-curricular cooking and tasting activities.

Field Trip & Excursions

Welcome and Farewell Dinners.
Weekend field trip to Modena and Parma Factories;
Workshops with Local Artisans
Italian Cooking Classes in Umbra’s Didactic Kitchen;
Visits to Local Farm-to-Table and Fair Trade restaurants;
Hands-on Experience in Umbra’s Urban Garden;
Truffle hunting in the Apennine Mountains;

The Scholar’s Program

This unique program takes qualified students’ academic experience one step further. Not only do they participate fully in the FSE Program, which includes a rich complement of co-curricular activities, workshops and field trips, but students will also pursue an original independent research project. As always, the Scholars Program Coordinator will provide assistance and guidance in defining the research project, assigning a faculty mentor, and selecting the complimentary courses that best fit the student’s needs.


Advisory Board
The Umbra direction of the FSE are advised by an eight-member board of academics whose research is in the field of food studies. These board members assist in curriculum development and strategic planning.
The members are:

Zachary Nowak, PhD—The Umbra Institute/Harvard University
Michael DiGiovine—West Chester University
Alice Julier, PhD—Chatham University
Peter Naccarato, PhD—Marymount Manhattan College
Joyce Chaplin, PhD—Harvard University
Chris Fink, PhD—Ohio Wesleyan University

Biennial Food & Sustainability Conference

Since 2012, the Umbra Institute has hosted a biennial food conference in Perugia. Past keynotes have included Ken Albala, Massimo Montanari, Rachel Black, Kolleen Guy, Amy Trubek, Simone Cinotto, Molly Anderson, Alice Julier, Lisa Heldke, Michael Herzfeld, and John Lang.

Some of the contributions to the first conference have been published as Representing Italy Through Food (Bloomsbury, 2017), edited by Peter Naccarato, Zachary Nowak, and Elgin K. Eckert.The fifth edition of the conference will be held June 2022.

Stay tuned for the Call for Papers!

Conference Website