CPT902: Sustainable Food Systems

School Cardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department Code GEOPL
Module Code CPT902
External Subject Code L700
Number of Credits 20
Level L7
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader PROFESSOR Roberta Sonnino
Semester Spring Semester
Academic Year 2020/1

Outline Description of Module


This module explores the role of food in delivering the objectives of sustainable development. Through the prism of food, the module addresses key critical questions on resource shortfalls, environmental pressures and social development. Drawing on the perspectives of different actors in the food chain –producers, retailers, consumers, regulators and campaigners, the module explores the scope for (and the limits to) the development of food systems that promote sustainability outcomes. The module has a theoretical and empirical focus on food production, retailing and consumption and on the different sustainability dimensions and discourses (including competing quality attributes and the role of different policy actors in food governance).


On completion of the module a student should be able to

  1. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of how and why socio-economic development and environmental integrity are relevant in food production, consumption and disposal;
  2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of why food origins, production methods and consumption patterns are at the forefront of debates on sustainable development;
  3. Appreciate and systematically understand the different adjustments actors in food chains are making in order to align their role and actions to the new issues, policies and practices surrounding sustainable development;
  4. Critically consider the extent of these changes; and
  5. Evaluate the potential impact of them on academic debate and assess the prospects of sustainable food systems in practice.

How the module will be delivered


The module involves the following methods of learning and teaching:

  • Traditional lectures are the principal vehicle for the presentation of central issues and the current debate around them. They also provide an opportunity for questions and open discussion
  • Guest speakers are invited to deliver lectures and engage in critical discussions with the students –with a view to enhancing their understanding of policy/practice-led debates on sustainable food systems
  • Required ‘group project work’ affords an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and presentational skills.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Subject-related skills.

  1. Critically discuss and/or challenge theoretical assumptions;
  2. Evaluate policies - both specifically designed or having an indirect effect - affecting the chosen issue/theme;
  3. Assess strategies and programmes adopted in practice.


Employability skills:

  1. Problem Definiation
  2. Written, oral and graphic communication
  3. Creative and efficient group work and project management

  4. Synthesis and application of knowledge to practice


  1. Academic skills:
  2. Know and distinguish radically different families of guiding principles in food systems;

  3. Appreciate the relevance of geography and planning for people, particularly as relevant elements in the trust-building process between food producers, distributors and consumers;

  4. Acknowledge sustainability issues related with food chains and appreciate the ecological value of food;

  5. Reflect systematically upon what has been learnt in theory and apply it to a project, and its implications for personal development and further training.

How the module will be assessed

The module will be assessed through:

  • A final essay

  • A final group presentation linked to a ‘media analysis’ undertaken during the semester.

The essay will help students to gain the theoretical and policy knowledge and skills needed to achieve the learning outcomes listed above. The media analysis will ensure an empirical understanding of the issues surrounding the popular debate on sustainable food systems. The group work for the media analysis will also prepare students who intend to pursue a career in this area to the challenges of research team work (see employability skills).


Formative Assessment

Students will be provided with opportunities for formative feedback tasks throughout the module.

This could include:

Debates in Lectures, Seminar discussions, drop-in discussions with teaching team




Students are permitted to be reassessed in a module which they have failed, in line with University regulations. https://intranet.cardiff.ac.uk/staff/teaching-and-supporting-students/teaching-support/academic-regulations. You will only be reassessed on the components of the module in which you have failed. The format of the reassessment will be the same as the original assessment and will take place in the Summer re-sit period.


Summative Assessment



Team presentation of media analysis

Learning Outcomes

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

1, 2, 3 and 4

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs)
Written Assessment 60 Essay N/A
Presentation 40 Group Presentation N/A

Syllabus content

Typically the module will cover the following topics:

  • Sustainability in the Food System: Key issues and debates

  • Sustainable Urban Foodscapes: Governance and Policies

  • Sustainability in Food Production

  • Supermarkets, Globalization and the Low-carbon Economy

  • Alternative Food Retailing

  • Sustainability in the Context of Food Security

  • Sustainable Urban-Rural linkages

Essential Reading and Resource List

  • Blay-Palmer, A., Sonnino, R. and Custot, J.  (2016) A Food Politics of the Possible? Growing Sustainable Food Systems through Networks of Knowledge. Agriculture and Human Values, 33, 1: 27-43
  • Goodman, D., DuPuis, E. M., & Goodman, M. K. (2012). Alternative Food Networks: Knowledge, Place and Politics. Oxon, New York: Routledge


Marsden, T. (2012) Sustainable place-making for sustainability science: the contested case of agri-food and urban–rural relations. Sustainability Science, 1-14

  • Morgan, K. J., T. Marsden, and J. Murdoch (2006) Worlds of Food: Place, Power and Provenance in the Food Chain. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press
  • Morgan, K. J. and Sonnino, R. (2013) The School Food Revolution: Public Food and the Challenge of Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan


  • Sonnino, R. (2009) Quality Food, Public Procurement, and Sustainable Development: The School Meal Revolution in Rome. Environment and Planning A, 41 (2): 425-440

Background Reading and Resource List

  • Eakin, H., Connors, J.P., Wharton, C., Bertmann, F., Xiong, A. and Stoltzfus, J. (2017) Identifying Attributes of Food System Sustainability: Emerging Themes and Consensus. Agriculture and Human Values 34: 757-773

  • Hattersley, L., & Dixon, J. (2012) Supermarkets, food systems and public health: Facing the challenges.

    Food security, nutrition and sustainability, 188

  • Lang, T. & Barling, D.(2012) Food Security and Food Sustainability: Reformulating the Debate. The Geographical Journal, 178: 313-326

  • Morgan, K.J. (2010) Local and Green, Global and Fair: the Ethical Foodscape and the Politics of Care. Environment and Planning A, 42 (8): 1852-1867

Copyright Cardiff University. Registered charity no. 1136855