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Global Food Security & Sustainability

Examine food availability and the potential for alternative forms of production to achieve food and environmental justice.

At a Glance





Courses taught in



Aug 28 – Dec 10

Program Countries


Program Base

Montespertoli, Tuscany

Critical Global Issue of Study

Geopolitics & Power


Why study food security in the Mediterranean region?

Conflicts, climate crises, migration, the agro-industrial food complex, and the pandemic—all are impacting food security around the globe. This program explores how governments and civil society organizations are responding to the pressing challenge to create a food system that minimizes waste, mitigates climate change and biodiversity loss, promotes economic and social justice, and supports healthy diets.

The European Green Deal’s Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent. We explore whether Italy’s Slow Food movements and diverse culinary cultures can provide a sustainable model for Europe and the rest of the Global North. In Italy and Croatia, we examine how the emergence of food districts for community and activist-led food and social justice projects—with food sovereignty as their mantra—are illuminating alternative forms of food production and distribution.

You will explore the intersectionality of neoliberal agendas, food sovereignty, and food in/security, and assess diverse dimensions of food availability and consumption. Examine the potential for, and obstacles to, alternative forms of food of production and distribution to achieve food justice and environmental sustainability. In visits with NGOs, civil society groups, small-scale farmers’ movements, and urban food consumer associations, hear how food sovereignty has become the mantra around which vulnerable communities are mobilizing resistance.


  • Meet farmers, activists, NGOs, and citizens in Tuscany, Turin, Sicily, and Croatia
  • Visit food banks, farmers’ markets, and community-level farmers’ organizations.
  • Explore the relationship between the commodification of nature and the commodification of food.
  • Examine the impact of alternative food systems including food banks and farmers’ organizations.



program map


Traditional and Modern Agriculture in Italy

Your program is based at Castello Sonnino, a historic castle in the small Tuscan village of Montespertoli, about one hour outside of Florence. Here, you will be integrated into the daily rhythms of village life in Italy, cooking and sharing meals with the community as you explore how this ancient farming village has responded to contemporary agricultural and economic challenges. You’ll learn from and work alongside farmers at Castello Sonnino to and learn about the production of wine and olive oil, and the economic pressures that small-scale farmers and growers face in Europe today. 

International Policy in Rome

In Italy’s capital, learn about 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. Site visits in Rome might include stops at multinational institutions working on food security, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Committee on World Food Security, or the International Fund for Agriculture and Development.  You will have a chance to hear firsthand from policy experts about how international aid and trade regimes have an impact on struggles for food security in the Global South and in the North.

Artisanal Production in Piedmont/Turin

In the Piedmont region, one of the birthplaces of the global Slow Food movement, experience and taste the UNESCO-recognized World Heritage agricultural landscape in and around the city of Turin. Learn the importance of celebrating food—from global food fairs to village food festivals, and from regional urban markets to rural agricultural tourism. Expand your food knowledge in a region steeped in multiple culinary traditions and cultures, including world-renowned culinary legacies. You will also learn about artisanal production and gastronomy as a driver of regional and national economic growth.

Slow Food in Istria, Croatia

You will spend about a week in the peninsula of Istria, which produces one of Europe’s highest quality olive oils and is famous for its truffles and Slow Food culture. Istria is at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin, and Slavic cultures. Here, you will enjoy the cultural diversity and rich culinary traditions of the Istrian region and consider the role of organic food production and sustainable agriculture and fisheries in fostering food security and public health.

Fighting Global Hunger in Sicily  

Learn about local efforts to combat global hunger in agriculture-rich Sicily, known for its olive oil, wine, and ancient grains. Compare these local approaches to global agriculture trends around biotechnology and genetically modified foods. In Sicily, a frequent stop for migrants seeking new lives in Europe, you begin to track larger migration patterns from Africa into Europe and the ways in which these migratory flows are disrupting and posing new possibilities for Europe’s food systems. 

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Assess the impact of neoliberal policies on the structure and form of the contemporary food system.
  • Describe the impacts of geopolitics, climate change, and war on food insecurity and forced migration.
  • Identify the similarities and differences between the landscapes, food networks, and social movements in Tuscany, Piedmont, Istria, and Sicily.
  • Propose strategies for promoting an equitable, socially just, and environmentally sustainable food system.
  • Integrate Italian language skills into everyday communication
  • Synthesize the learning acquired on the program in the form of an Independent Study Project paper and presentation on a topical issue related to food security and sustainability.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Examine the impact of geopolitics, with a special focus on the Russian/Ukraine war, on food security in the Mediterranean.
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  • Learn about innovative approaches to food producton and distribution within civil society, NGOs, and governments.
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  • Undertake qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research in the field of food studies.
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  • Enhance your ability to communicate in Italian.

Global Food Security and Food Sovereignty

Global Food Security and Food Sovereignty
(SDIS3000 /
3 credits)

This course explores the intersectionality of neoliberal agendas, food sovereignty, and food in/security. Neoliberalism has engendered new and emerging forms of food production and an agro-industrial complex that have unleashed unexpected vulnerabilities among diverse communities. At the same time, civil society groups, small-scale farmers’ movements, and urban food consumer associations are pushing back the neoliberal agenda, creating and articulating new and radical epistemic formations and knowledge in regard to food systems. Food sovereignty has become the mantra around which these vulnerable communities mobilize resistance against an agro-industrial complex.

This course examines relations of capital that historically have engendered the commodification of nature and food; the concept of multi-functionality and its implications for food sovereignty epistemologies, agro-biodiversity and agro-ecology; the impact of geopolitics, with a special focus on the Russian/Ukraine war, on food security in Italy; the impacts of climate change and food insecurity on forced migration; and the potential and limits of alternative food systems to deliver safe and sufficient food.

Alternative Farming Systems and Sustainability

Alternative Farming Systems and Sustainability
(ENVI3500 / 3 credits)

To achieve global resilience and mitigate food insecurity, civil society, NGOs, local and national governments are designing and implementing diverse and innovative approaches to food production and distribution. As they do so, they seek to achieve a balance between an increase in food production and the requirements of environmental sustainability, and ensure equitable access to food supply to disenfranchised communities across the globe. In addition, they support small, resilient, and scalable farming techniques, and turn inclusive agricultural development into transformative action to improve the living conditions of the poor and the hungry. What is the potential of these initiatives to achieve a sustainable food supply and political stability, and what can we learn from them? This course explores these questions through lectures with community, regional, national, and international advocates of food security and carefully designed case studies.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

This seminar introduces students to the conceptual and practical tools for gathering primary data, and the knowledge and skills that are essential to forming constructive relationships with organizations and/or individuals, which are necessary for completing an academic project in the cultural context of Italy. The main emphasis is on the development of methods, tools, and ethical considerations needed for inquiry. The seminar includes modules on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research for ethical decision-making in the field of food studies.

The seminar uses lectures and field assignments to prepare students to undertake field study in Italy in strict observance of research procedures. The overall aim is to help students hone their experience-based learning processes and prepare them for the development of an Independent Study Project (ISP).


Beginning Italian
(ITAL1003 or ITAL1503 / 3 credits)

Intermediate Italian
(ITAL2003 or ITAL2503 / 3 credits)

Advanced Italian for Food Studies
(ITAL3003 or ITAL3503 / 3 credits)

Emphasis on speaking, reading, and writing skills in Italian through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, students are placed in intensive beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes, with further language practice in lectures and field visits. 

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project (ISP) is a self-designed research project offering students the opportunity to undertake a personally significant and independent investigation that highlights the regional and cultural reality that can only be encountered during a study abroad experience. The ISP is the academic component in which the student most directly applies the concepts, skills, tools, and techniques of experience-based learning articulated through the Research Methods and Ethics course and the thematic courses, while enabling students to further integrate their language skills and the contacts they have developed in the homestay and in the broader community. Each student will plan, develop, and independently undertake a research project, with the advice and guidance of the academic director and an ISP advisor — a local academic and/or food studies or sustainability professional.

The topic of study may be anything of interest to the student, within the scope of the program and the immediate region, and is usually developed out of lectures, discussions, field visits, and educational excursions. The final project should provide material evidence of student capability in utilizing appropriate methodologies and in synthesizing experiences in the host culture. Students are expected to complete 120 hours of field-based (non-archival, non-library) research on their topic, submit a substantial written paper, and deliver an accompanying oral presentation. It is not uncommon for ISPs to strongly contribute to the student’s choice of subject for graduate studies or professional career. 


Experience Life on a 13th Century Estate

During your time at the program base, you will live in apartments near or within walking distance of the 13th Century estate of Castello Sonnino, near Montespertoli in Tuscany. You will share a two- or three-bedroom apartment with other students on the program. Your apartment will be equipped with its own bathroom, and a kitchen where you’ll prepare your own meals. There will also be some meals organized in Castello Sonnino’s Enoteca restaurant, which offers indoor and outdoor eating space. You will also have an opportunity to engage in a weekly “English for Pasta” activity in which you provide an English lesson in exchange for a home-cooked meal with a local family. You will benefit from the insights and passion of the de Renzis Sonnino family, who run the estate and have years of experience in agriculture, farming, and viniculture. Living on Castello Sonnino’s working farm and winery offers a one-of-a-kind experiential learning environment where you can fully immerse yourself in the program’s central themes.

Other Accommodations

During excursions you will stay in hostels or small apartments. 


Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & 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 nearly 1 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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