Wicked Problems, Food Issues, Children, Health, Experiential Learning, Soft Systems Thinking


Life-long healthy eating habits linked with sustainable local agricultural practices, as “wicked problems” in the United States, are intractable, on-going, and high-stakes issues. An interdisciplinary university course was developed to engage students in participatory research and fieldwork on the inextricably linked dimensions of food, health, and sustainability. Students worked with community partners, stakeholders, and experts to address the specific interdisciplinary issues of diet and promotion of healthy eating habits in American school children. Using a “bottom-up” approach, students co-developed projects with stakeholders (including school children) to empower movement for change. This interactive research process created an iterative feedback loop which fostered more inclusive and creative projects to meliorate the wicked problem at hand. Project proposals ranged from the creation of an interactive website intended for school children, to field trips to local farming communities, to “how-to” workshops for gardening and meal planning, to local tastings. Projects were, in the end, shared with and vetted by community partners for future co-implementation. Using food as an interdisciplinary agent to bring collaboration to fruition, the results of this work indicate higher education could be more effective in preparing students for our 21st century food challenges by developing experiential learning courses in partnership with food communities.


Original Citation: Anne Marie Fauvel & Danielle L. Lake. "Tackling Wicked Food Issues: Applying the Wicked Problems Approach in Higher Education to Promote Healthy Eating Habits in American School Children" Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 5.1 (2015): 31-42.