Study how the dynamics of food production, distribution, and provisioning are affected by population growth, rapid urbanization, and globalization, and which responses offer the most promise for sustainable food futures at local, national, and global levels.
Consider how to meet food availability, access, and utilization demands when approximately 870 million people per year—more than 12 percent of the global population—suffer from chronic undernourishment.
Discuss food sustainability with activists, professors, and well-known innovators in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Learn about the smallholder agriculture and explore conventional and alternative farming practices in Malawi.
Examine fishery traditions, dairy cooperatives, and social movements and development initiatives impacting agriculture in India.
Study the EU’s complex and innovative food safety and trade regulations and talk with policy experts at multiple United Nations institutions in Italy.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- How we will feed and nourish nine billion people by 2050 and do so while sustaining the agricultural livelihoods of nearly one billion people
- How we will conserve our natural environments and the green infrastructure we rely on and empower local communities to determine their own food sustainability futures
- How we will confront questions about biodiversity and genetically modified crops, land rights and corruption, environmental degradation and conflict, and natural disasters and resilience
- How global issues like industrialization, changing agricultural conditions, technological innovation, and rapid urbanization factor into food security challenges and opportunities
- How thought leaders, including Alice Waters and Vandana Shiva, and social movements such as the slow food and local farming movements have had an impact on food policy and futures in the global north and south
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- People, Identity, and Food – syllabus
- (ANTH3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course will help you to understand how access to food, eating habits, choices, and the pleasures and processes of food consumption often reveal distinctions of age, gender, status, class, occupation, ethnicity, and religion—within and among cultures. Explore the role food plays in people’s lives, including and in addition to nutrition, and how urbanization and globalization are changing relationships between people, their environments, production and distribution chains, and therefore relationships with food itself. Identity how development, food demand, and distribution systems shape each other, and learn about how access to food, along with strategies for health and nutrition, are culturally determined.
- Getting from Field to Fork – syllabus
- (ECON3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course examines the most effective economic development strategies for increasing food security among the most vulnerable food producers and consumers, how to increase efficiencies and reduce waste in existing processing and distribution chains to ensure more equitable access, and how to develop sustainable food systems for rapidly growing urban populations. Explore how international trade and regulatory frameworks affect food production and distribution chains, analyzing how these frameworks can contribute to global food security, as well as how income inequality—at local, national and global scales—affect nutrition and health, and what strategies can be most effective in reducing disparities. This course allows you to investigate the role migration plays in food production and consumption in diverse communities, and how access to information (including digital technology) can improve efficiency of both food production and distribution systems.
- Agriculture, Ecology, and Sustainable Futures – syllabus
- (ENVI3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course analyzes how to reach food security objectives while taking into account local and global environmental imperatives and realities. Explore the prospects of currently prevailing agricultural models and what solutions they offer, as well as alternative models—including ecologically integrated methods and scales. There is emphasis on what roles science, technology, and innovation will play in creating a more food secure world, and how global climate change affects and will continue to affect local environments—creating new threats, weaknesses, and opportunities for shifting priorities. Look into possible systems and tools to empower local food producers to promote productivity and ecological health, and examine how urban agriculture and other innovations can contribute to local food security in our rapidly urbanizing world.
- Politics, Ethics, and Food Security – syllabus
- (POLI3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course explores questions related to land rights, income distribution and inequality, food distribution systems, government regulation, the role of international organizations, and policy crafting as they relate to food and food security. More specifically, learn how to define food security at local, national and global scales, and how different conceptions determine varied approaches. You will also discuss how land rights and livelihoods can be balanced with rising global pressures around food security, and how income distribution and inequality affect hunger, food production, and development. The course deeply examines how governments, NGOs, research institutes, and UN bodies, among others, can help develop global solutions to ensure food accessibility for urban and rural communities. These complex topics will help you build a rich understanding of food security issues in an increasingly globalized and urbanized world.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
United States: San Francisco Bay Area, California
The program begins in the San Francisco Bay Area—home to a food system connected to some of the United States’ richest farmland—where you will start to frame issues around agriculture, ecology, and sustainable futures, and learn differences between industrial, local, organic, and urban agriculture. Examine policy and regulatory frameworks and look into the economics of food, distribution chains, and markets while meeting at organizations such as Food First, Phat Beets Produce, the Oakland and Berkeley Farmer’s Markets, the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, Maza Pa La Raza, Boom Distillery, and other local institutions and markets. Talk about food sustainability with activists, professors, and well-known innovators including alumni involved with food issues
Malawi: Lilongwe, Ntcheu
Arriving in Lilongwe, you’ll be immersed in the ongoing and sometimes contentious discussion between the government, civil society, and farmers as they navigate the efforts to increase food availability and access. Specifically, you’ll examine mainstream efforts to increase yields through agricultural subsidies in comparison to effort to improve food sovereignty and nutritional security through alternatives such as permaculture. Travel south to the rural communities near Ntcheu to live and learn among smallholder farming families while exploring the effects of cultural traditions, climate change, drought, ecology, migration, and international aid regimes on agricultural histories and futures. You’ll learn about the struggle to maintain and adapt an agricultural livelihood as input costs rise, land holdings shrink in an environment of increasing climatic uncertainty.
You’ll begin your studies in Ahmedabad, where you’ll meet with government officials and develop a framework of food security schemes in the state of Gujarat. You’ll focus specifically on food procurement and distribution policy combating extreme urban poverty and analyze the implications of class, caste, and social equity on food policy. You’ll also learn about Indian social movements and advocacy regarding food security, disaster, recovery, and resilience, among other urgent issues affecting subsistence and sustainability in India.
Then you’ll travel to indigenous farming communities in rural Gujarat, where you’ll explore cultural and religious conceptions of the environment and discover how land rights and development-induced displacement of rural economies are affecting marginalized peoples and communities. In coastal communities, you’ll be introduced to Indian Ocean fishery traditions in a region with deep historic ties to East Africa, and you’ll examine the value chains of staple food products such as salt and sugar. In central Gujarat, you’ll focus on the organizational structure of dairy cooperatives and the growth of capital and technology intensive agricultural economies related to food processing industries.
Italy: Rome, Piedmont/Turin
In Rome, you’ll examine the metropolitan food system of Italy’s largest city and discover the country’s highly evolved food regionalism, food histories, and resilient food cooperatives. You’ll hear from policy experts at multiple United Nations institutions around the city, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Committee on World Food Security, Codex Alimentarius Commission, and the International Fund for Agriculture and Development, and learn how international aid and trade regimes impact food security struggles in the global south and north. You’ll also study the Italian and European Union’s complex and innovative food safety, identity, and trade regulation systems and their roles in ensuring long-term health and protecting local livelihoods, cultural traditions, and landscapes.
Travel north to the Piedmont region, where you’ll meet with the global Slow Food movement, visit the University of Gastronomic Sciences, and experience the UNESCO-recognized World Heritage agricultural landscape of the Langhe area. Here, you’ll expand your food knowledge in a region steeped in multiple culinary traditions and cultures while learning about traditional family farming, artisanal production, gastronomy as a driver of regional economic growth, and the importance of celebrating food—from global food fairs to village food festivals and from regional urban markets to rural agricultural tourism.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.
Joseph Lanning, PhD, Program Director
Joe is an economic and agricultural anthropologist who has worked in higher education as both an educator and administrator while conducting research on agricultural decision making and food security. He holds a BA in anthropology, with a focus on gender studies, and an MA in global history from the University of Rochester and a PhD in anthropology from the University of Georgia. Much of his work focuses on the agricultural livelihoods of rural Malawians as they navigate climatic, environmental, and economic risk and uncertainty in their efforts to achieve food security. Joe is an alum (fall ’98) of SIT’s semester abroad program in Kenya. His time as an SIT student inspired him to volunteer with the US Peace Corps and work in the areas of public health, irrigation, and alternative agriculture. His research and teaching has since led him to work and travel through much of southern Africa, and, in addition to directing the Rethinking Food Security program, he is currently a managing partner for a small-scale permaculture demonstration farm in Malawi. Joe has more than a decade’s experience teaching and managing anthropology research methods field schools in Malawi and Samoa for undergraduate, high school, medical, and graduate students.
Zufan Hagos, MA, Program Manager
Zufan holds a BS in secondary education and Spanish from the University of Vermont and an MA in international education from SIT Graduate Institute. Zufan’s work has focused on multicultural education, service-learning, language acquisition, and international education. Prior to joining IHP, Zufan worked with Putney Student Travel, National Geographic Student Expeditions, and the Center for International Studies designing, managing, and facilitating middle, high school, and college level programs in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Alyshia Silva, Launch Coordinator
Alyshia first experienced the effects of food injustice and its complex ties to race, class, and gender as a first-generation Latina growing up in Los Angeles, California. These experiences pushed her to pursue her degree in environmental analysis and anthropology to study how communities of color are systematically disenfranchised through urban and environmental planning and policy. She worked as assistant director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Southern California and then at Tufts University. She now works at the Institute for Food and Development Policy, better known as Food First. The original food policy think tank, Food First focuses on dismantling forms of oppression in the food system through research, education, and action.
Geoffrey Mlongoti, Country Coordinator, Malawi
Geoffrey is the manager of Zistinthe Farm and Community Garden in the Ntcheu District of central Malawi. He began his work in food security with the Permaculture Network of Malawi and as a counterpart to Peace Corps volunteers. Over the last two decades, he has been a research assistant and translator for researchers from numerous universities and development projects. Most recently, Geoff worked alongside medical students studying food security and examining the relationship between seasonality and exclusive breastfeeding of infants in rural Malawi. Geoff was born in Blantyre, the “industrial capital” of Malawi, and raised in Gowa Village, the site of this program’s rural homestay. He studied computing and information technology at Skyway Business College in Blantyre and enjoys being a catalyst in the learning and transformation students’ experience studying in Malawi.
Sonal Mehta, MA, Country Coordinator, India
Sonal has a master’s degree in physics and a postgraduate diploma in space sciences. For the last three decades she has worked as a human rights activist, educator, and social organization builder. She has worked on several large-scale rehabilitation and social housing programs in the wake of major disasters in India and has played a key role in founding cooperatives of indigenous and urban poor women. She is currently director of Eklavya Foundation and is developing sustainable opportunities for an indigenous community of forest dwellers and bamboo workers in Gujarat. She is visiting faculty at Ahmedabad’s CEPT University and Gujarat’s Entrepreneurship Development Institute and has participated in and coordinated the World Social Forum at regional, national, and international levels. She is also actively involved with the International Women’s Movement.
Paola Baravalle, MPhil, Country Coordinator, Italy
Paola is the deputy director of the Conservatory of Mediterranean Food in Turin and a European projects planner accredited in Brussels. She is a psychologist with an MPhil and has worked with the UN’s Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. She has managed cross-border cooperation projects for more than 14 years and has directed education projects on the environment, food heritage, and enhancement of land resources. Paola was head of the involvement, animation, and facilitation process for the Monviso area’s recognition as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and co-developed the dossier recognizing the reserve at the transboundary level. In 2015, she participated in the city and University of Turin’s working groups that defined a strategic atlas on food.
Lowery Parker, PhD Candidate, Traveling Faculty
Lowery has a BA in history from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in international policy from the University of Georgia, where she is now finishing her PhD in geography and integrative conservation. Her research focuses on the politics of agricultural investment in Africa, exploring issues related to philanthropy, genetically modified crops, and food security. Her interest in food politics stems from a childhood growing up on a family farm in southwest Georgia as well as her experience living in Niger as a Peace Corps volunteer. She has worked on farms and in restaurants committed to building local food systems and has conducted applied research on agricultural issues such as irrigation efficiency and the social effects of large-scale commodity crop production.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site except the US. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.
Family structures vary in every place. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.
Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Content and logistics for field programs in San Francisco, Malawi, India, and Italy
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in the following courses:
- People, Identity, and Food
- Getting from Field to Fork
- Agriculture, Ecology, and Sustainable Futures
- Politics, Ethics, and Food Security
- Guest lectures and panel discussions
- Site visit hosts and facilitators
- Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
- All educational excursions, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Break costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.
- Group travel during the program
- This travel includes all flights and a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program, arranged by our travel agent.
Room & Board: $4,000
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays in Malawi, India, and Italy
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Domestic Airfare to Program Launch Site
Domestic airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $300
Books & Supplies: $150
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Break: $500 - $800
Please note: This is an estimated range based on student surveys from past semesters. Students' individual needs for their breaks will vary. For the entirety of the break period, students will be responsible for all of their expenses, including travel and room and board.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
Relevant career paths include:
- Agriculture and food production
- Nonprofit management
- International development
- Sustainability and climate change