Undergraduate Study


The Food Systems Capstone, NUTR 493, is a culminating academic endeavor for UW undergraduates majoring in Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health. The capstone provides students with an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills acquired in their courses to a specific food systems problem or issue. This six-credit course emphasizes systems thinking, community engaged scholarship, anti-racism and equity, and opportunities for students to grapple with real world, complex issues across the food system.

Teams of 4-5 senior students work with direction from the instructor and in partnership with community leaders, who identify an area of interest for students to address. Over the quarter, student teams will refine the project focus; consult with and report back to their community partner; and conduct a regionally-based project or prepare resource materials related to the overarching food system theme.  Types of outcomes may include: literature reviews; methodology reviews; surveys of programs that exist elsewhere; comparing systems; educational resources; and more.

The role of the instructor is to provide instruction regarding steps to addressing food systems issues, guidance in terms of in-class discussions among student teams, and resources when needed and appropriate to aid in student progress. The role of the community partner is to identify an issue for investigation that would benefit from student energy, curiosity, and creativity; provide access to relevant materials; and give feedback to the student teams where appropriate and feasible.

Community partners may include leaders and representatives from community-based organizations, local and county government, social enterprise, and other key stakeholders. Partners may represent: farm, farmworker, and food systems organizations and initiatives, school boards, public agencies, conservation districts, food hubs, and more. Examples of past capstone projects can be found on our Student Projects page. Community partnerships may develop for one or more years, so the community partners in any given year will likely include some of the same partners as the year before.

The Capstone course uses the 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge from Food Solutions New England as a guide for learning about and reflecting on race, identity, and equity within the food system.

After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply food systems concepts to real-world circumstances and challenges.
  • Practice the methods used to conduct food systems research.
  • Analyze the impacts of food systems on population health.
  • Develop recommendations and articulate them using clear and effective oral and written communication.
  • Appreciate the breadth and depth of professional opportunities in food systems, nutrition, and health.
  • Articulate how social inequities and racism, generated by power and
    privilege, are embedded within food systems and undermine health.