Sustainable, Resilient, and Healthy Food and Water Systems: A Curriculum for Dietetic Students and Interns

Sustainable food systems apply to all aspects of the field of nutrition and dietetics and there is growing interest in this area from nutrition and dietetics students. To address the need for activities in sustainable food systems, content experts created the Sustainable, Resilient, and Healthy Food and Water Systems (SFS) Curriculum for dietetics students and implementation guide.

The SFS Curriculum and Guide are designed to provide dietetic interns and students with strong foundational knowledge in the nutritional, social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainable food systems. They collectively consists of activities that can be integrated into dietetics education programs as individual stand-alone activities, rotations, or as a program concentration. In this way, it is adaptable to many types of dietetics education programs including dietetic internships, coordinated programs, didactic programs in dietetics, graduate degree programs, and additional settings.

The Implementation Guide offers recommendations and Step-by-Step Guidance for integrating SFS curriculum activities into existing dietetics education programs. Case studies from four University Sites provide examples of how the activities might fit within a variety of programs, including adapting the SFS Curriculum activities for an online, distance learning experience.

Regardless of how the activities are implemented, the SFS Curriculum is shown to advance the knowledge of students and practitioners and provide learners with skills that are applicable to diverse practice settings. We hope these resources will provide the tools to incorporate new, sustainably focused activities within dietetics education. By offering learning opportunities at the intersection of food systems and health, educators can equip future RDNs and NDTRs with the knowledge and skills to have a seat at the table in cultivating a sustainable food system.

Download the Curriculum and Implementation Guide (PDF)

Step 1: Formulate a Team

In this fundamental step, focus on building and cultivating relationships. Whether you are making minor modifications or overhauling an entire curriculum, changes to any program may be challenging. Having a supportive team in-place can lead to overcoming many obstacles. Identify champions within your program who have already expressed an interest or expertise in sustainability or food systems. Then, develop a network with professionals outside your program. Your network might include local organizations working within sustainability and food systems, other educators who are already integrating these activities within their dietetics program, and/or students with an expressed interest in this topic.

Step 2: Identify Appropriate Sustainable Food System Activities

In this productive step, consider the competencies of your program and the hopes and dreams of your team. The sustainable food systems activities offered within the curriculum and in this guide are a menu of items from which your program can choose. Review the resources within the curriculum and guide.

Table 2 provides a summary of the curriculum activities at a glance, along with information that may help you identify where each activity may fit into your program. It includes ideas for modifying activities for both in-person and virtual settings. Begin by focusing on your current competencies. The case study samples on pages 5-10 and FAQ within pages 24-27 of the Guide are great resources for gathering ideas of how to integrate this content within dietetics education programs.

Step 3: Integrate New Activities within Your Program

During this hands-on step, identify the activities that your students will complete during the upcoming academic year. A worksheet can be downloaded as an interactive file or printable PDF to facilitate this process (available on page 16 of the Implementation Guide). Consider your program’s structure, current competencies and assignments, your team’s expertise, and student interest to identify the activities that are the best fit. This step is revisited annually, so focus on what is feasible during the first year and make a concerted effort to reassess.

Step 4: Implement and Assess Activities with Students

In this data-driven step, identify which activities work well and where additional modifications are necessary. Gather feedback from educators, preceptors, and students. Assessment can be accomplished informally during regular meetings when you are already monitoring students’ progress, such as at a site visit at an internship rotation, after an assignment is submitted in a course, or during a mid-point evaluation. Sample rubrics for evaluating the activities and gaining feedback are available to download and on page 24 of the Implementation Guide.

Step 5: Reassess Annually

Focus on what is feasible during the first year and make a concerted effort to reassess annually. Return to the worksheet that was completed in Step 3 to assess the activities that were integrated and ways in which your program can integrate additional activities.