Skip to main content


Sustainable Nutrition

Module titleSustainable Nutrition
Module codeESS3506
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Kerry Brown (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Creating food systems that provide healthy food, for everyone today and for future generations, without exploiting animal, human, or planetary resources is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Food systems make significant contributions to climate change. Global food production accounts for approximately a third of total greenhouse gas emissions and drives changes to water and land use. Simultaneously, climate change, irregular rainfalls, and extreme weather events are impacting food production, livelihoods, and widening inequalities in food security around the world. 

In this module you will be introduced to sustainable nutrition using a food systems perspective. This will involve considering relationships between different stages of the food supply chain (food production, retail, consumption) and how these interact with wider economic (GDP), social (human rights), health (health outcomes), and environmental (planetary boundary) demands.

The module will focus on inter-disciplinary and research-led teaching. Experts from across the University of Exeter, specialist guest lecturers, and local field visits, will facilitate discussion on the challenges and opportunities for sustainable nutrition at the local, national, or international level.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will enable you to use frameworks and case study examples to describe the complexity of food systems. This will help you to understand the design and impact of interventions targeting sustainable nutrition.

You will also be able to recognise the key role of the environment in promoting nutritional health for current and future generations. You will be able to summarise the impact of the environment on the food system, as well as how the food system can impact the environment.

This module will help you develop skills to interpret sustainability metrics and understand the strengths and limitations of available data sets or analysis methods. You will be able to identify different dimensions of environmental sustainability (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater use, biodiversity) to explain how one food/food group/diet might be healthy but not sustainable or not universally sustainable on all dimensions.

A key aim of this module is to help you to summarise and communicate current evidence, and any uncertainties, on sustainable nutrition within different contexts. Field visits will also provide you with opportunities to understand, in a real-life context, the challenges and opportunities for implementing interventions to facilitate sustainable nutrition.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe food systems to demonstrate their complexity (how food supply chains can be influenced by/influence the economy, our health, society, or the environment at national/global levels)
  • 2. Discuss the environmental sustainability of individual foods/food groups/diets/agricultural or retail practices within different contexts (reflecting on health, inequity, animal welfare, and community livelihoods)
  • 3. Critically evaluate evidence on sustainable solutions to improve nutrition

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Critical appraisal of relevant research, policy, and practice in sustainable nutrition
  • 5. Knowledge on the sustainability of food systems and relation to national/global food and nutrition security (availability, access, utilisation, and stability of food)

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate creative and innovative ways to communicate balanced views effectively to specific audiences
  • 7. Understanding and commitment to ethical standards, equality, diversity, and human rights

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Sustainable and healthy food system concepts, definitions, & frameworks
  • The impact of food systems on planetary boundaries (e.g., freshwater ecosystems)
  • The impact of climate change on public health nutrition (e.g., food security)
  • Sustainable food production (e.g., agricultural practices & animal welfare, intellectual property)
  • Sustainable food manufacturing, retail, & distribution (e.g., processed foods & large corporations)
  • Sustainable food consumption (food environments & dietary patterns)
  • Trade, economics, & sustainable food supply chains
  • Food loss & food waste
  • Sustainability data & metrics
  • Sustainable agricultural/food policies & interventions: examples, challenges, & opportunities

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching18Seminars/practical/off-site field visit
Guided Independent Study33Reading
Guided Independent Study22Completing study tasks on ELE
Guided Independent Study55Preparation for assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation10 minutes1-7In class peer review

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written report701500 words1-7Written
Individual presentation3010 minutes1-7Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written reportWritten report1-7August/September assessment period
Individual presentationIndividual presentation1-7August/September assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e., a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will need to complete further assessment as required. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Essential and recommended reading will be provided, each week, for specific teaching and learning sessions on ELE ( The below are general reading materials for the overall module:


  • Lawrence M, Friel S. Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems. Taylor & Francis, 2019
  • FAO. Building a common vision for sustainable food and agriculture: principles and approaches. FAO: Rome, 2014
  • Meadows DH. Thinking in systems. Sustainability Institute, 2015


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Sustainable food, climate change, food system, food security, agroecology, equity

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date