MA Food Security and Food Justice

Established in 2015, the MA in Food Security and Food Justice enables its graduates to be uniquely placed within the growing areas of food security.

The programme is unique in terms of its commitment to training future leaders who will work toward the development of food systems that are fare and just. The program does this by offering exposure to:

  • Practitioners who are working in the area of food security and food justice;
  • A 70-hour work placement with a partner organisation working in the area of food security and food justice;
  • A professional skills module developed in consultation with our steering group partners to ensure you will have what you need to be effective in the workplace;
  • A field trip to Hong Kong that allows students to compare their experience and learning in the United Kingdom to an alternative real world context;
  • A combination of interdisciplinary and international perspectives;
  • Flexible options that enable the student to tailor their training to their career interests and ambitions.

Our programme is suited to any level of graduate experience, from a new graduate to professional; we explore how theory, policy and practice in areas of food security and equip our graduates with expertise to pursue academic, policy and practitioner careers

The Course

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Why should I take this course?

We’ve designed the programme to enhance students’ theoretical understanding alongside the practice involved in delivering and supporting a food system that is fair for all. Our emphasis on applied knowledge and skills is developed through:

  • A flexible professional skills module that enables you to participate in a range of optional workshops designed to help you develop the skills needed to be able to support initiatives aimed at reducing food insecurity and injustice in the food system. These skills options are developed in consultation with our external steering group which is made up of exactly the kinds of employers where you may find yourself working upon completion.
  • A work placement, with one of our partners, where you can learn how they engage with issues of food security and injustice on a daily basis.
  • A field-class in Hong Kong where we examine the local food system and meet with those working to make a better and fairer food system that is also more secure.
What modules will I study?

This MA programme consists of eight taught modules over two semesters and a dissertation project undertaken over the summer months (12 months in total). Four of the eight modules are compulsory.

Optional modules focus range in topics from further specialist methods and language training to topics in areas that influence food security and food justice such as public health and nutrition; urban development, politics and planning; health inequalities, natural resource and environmental management and international development.

Core Modules
Theories and Debates in Food Security and Food Justice This module will provide you with a background to the problems encompassed within the food security/food justice nexus by drawing on academic and policy debates that focus on both global issues as well as the grassroots impacts. While various political and non-political agents at various scales have recognized that Global Hunger and Food Security (of which Food Justice is a primary component) is a key challenge requiring urgent interdisciplinary investigation and problem solving, there remains limited agreement as to how best to approach these issues and at what scale. We shall work through some of these debates to identify ways that we can move forward toward producing a food system that safe, recognizes the effort of those contributing to the system, culturally sensitive, and available to all. The assessment for this module involves writing three 1000 word publicly facing blog posts that elaborate on themes discussed in the sessions.
Professional Skills for Food Security and Food Justice This module runs across semester one and semester two and is co-delivered with external practitioners and other partners to provide you with a core set of skills for employment within the food security and food justice sector. This innovative module will support you to identify areas of professional skills development that best fit your career aspirations – from technical to language to experiential – and provides a tailored programme of activities to support this. As part of the module, we have a Food Do-ers series that runs across the year, where practitioners working in our food system will provide insights into their work and the issues they face as food do-ers. There is also a 70 hour work placement associated with this module in semester two.
Field Course for Food Security and Food Justice The fieldclass module provides all students with practical experience of independent research and industry engagement in the context of Hong Kong in the autumn semester. In addition, and prior to departure you and your cohort will spend time working within the vibrant and active food scene in Sheffield, attending lectures and contributing to seminars. This mix of learning will enable you to design and conduct a small-scale empirical research project while in Hong Kong. While reflection on learning is a strong component of this module, the final product of your research conducted in Hong Kong will be presented publically via our student blog. The cost of international travel and accommodation associated with the fieldclass is included in the course fee. Local Hong Kong transportation and food costs are not included in the fee.
Research Design and Methods This module will provides you with a detailed understanding of the complexities of completing robust and reliable primary research addressing issues of Food Security and Food Justice. Starting from a critical grounding in methodological approaches and theories, the module develops insights and understandings of the particularities and practicalities of ‘doing’ research, including strategies for working across cultural, language and other differences.

Optional Modules
Data, Visualisation and GIS This module shows students how to deal with spatial data which they will need to use in order to visualise, identify, and understand patterns of social and spatial inequalities. The module covers the major sources of data used to study inequalities and the variety of ways in which they can be displayed to aid understanding and analysis.
Introduction to Quantitative Analysis This unit guides students through the analysis of quantitative data enabling students to build knowledge and skills in what techniques are available to analyse data.
Understanding Environmental Change This module gives students a critical understanding of the science behind historical and recent environmental change in the Global South. The course covers the core debates in environmental change, the science behind these changes, methods for detecting environmental change, and the impacts of these changes.
Key Issues in Global Public Health This module introduces contemporary and historical public health discourses, policies and practices. The module also explores the role and actions of key global health players and discusses the social determinants of health, as well as introducing major public health challenges in the contemporary world.
Ideas and Practice in International Development This module provides students with a robust understanding of the continuing evolution of theories of international development and their translation into development policy and practice. Through a comprehensive review of changing development theories and agendas since 1945, this module critically explores how current development paradigms and aid modalities inform the everyday realities of development policies and interventions.
Urban Challenges in the Global South This module addresses debates at the interface between urban studies and development studies. Focusing on urban areas in the Global South, it looks at the city through a range of theoretical perspectives and from a variety of spatial scales, from everyday practices of citizens at the grassroots level to the representation of the city within national policy and planning processes.
Urban Development in the Global South In this module students will explore in detail particular challenges to urban planning and development in the global South: how are conflicting imperatives of ecological sustainability, social inclusion and economic competitiveness being balanced by practitioners, and what implications does this have for those living there?
Key Issues in Environment and Development This module engages critically with the key theoretical debates that shape the environment, society and international development. By looking at current questions in development theory and their relationship to development practice in the context of environmental change, it encourages students to think critically about the ways in which interdisciplinary approaches define issues and problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions.
Living with Climate Change in the Global South This module aims to engender a detailed understanding of the development of ideas and theories of climate change, integrating the core science behind our understandings of climate change with a critical analysis of how this is interpreted and communicated. This understanding is then applied to consider the challenge of living with climate change in the Global South.
Disaster and Emergency Management This module covers key concepts of disaster and emergency management, exploring contemporary issues which affect the likelihood, scale and impact of a disaster and how these can be minimized through appropriate emergency planning, preparation and response by the community, governmental and non-governmental organisations.
Cities of Diversity This module focusses on diversity in the form of differing social identities (such as race and gender) but also diversity in terms of interpretations of planning and city building, some of which may appear irrational to mainstream planning frameworks. The module will focus on cities in both the developing and developed world.
Governance and Participation in the Global South This module addresses two themes within international development which have risen to global prominence since the close of the twentieth century: the quality of governance, and the role of people’s participation in the planning and delivery of development programmes. The module critically considers policy agendas concerned with ‘good governance’ and ‘deepening’ democracy, examining their underlying assumptions and their impacts on people living in the Global South.
Digital Methods This module introduces students to new and emerging methods for carrying out digital research. Digital methods are natively digital techniques for researching the natively digital (for example, social media content, likes and shares; blog posts and comments; hyperlinks; tag clouds; folksonomies; search engines; recommender culture) (Rogers 2013). Digital methods include social media insights and analytics, social network analysis, issue network analysis, and data visualisation, amongst others. As well as learning how to use these tools, techniques and processes, students on this module will evaluate them, the context of their emergence (and sometimes rapid decline). They will develop an understanding of how digital methods are used to create knowledge. In this way, the module addresses questions of web epistemology, information politics, ethics, device critique, and the social life of methods.

Additional modules may be selected with the approval of the course director and the department offering the module.

What will I gain?

By the time you graduate from this degree course you will have gained and internationally recognized qualification that evidences your understanding of the field of food security and food justice. Specifically you will be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the intersections between food security and food justice;
  • An ability to apply social science conceptualization and methods in the analysis of complex problems;
  • A capacity for formulating a research problem and for carrying out the research needed to produce useful knowledge for non-academic partners in industry, the third sector, or in local/regional/national government;
  • An awareness of the professional skills needed to undertake work in organisations seeking to address issues of food insecurity and food injustice;
  • An ability to draw out the food justice aspects in specialist topics related to food security.

You will also have gained module specific skills, depending on the options that you choose. In top of all this, you will have developed networks with our placement partner organizations, our partner organizations in Hong Kong, and with those who are in your cohort studying for the degree as well as our alumni.

How will I be taught and assessed?

Modules are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops and independent study. Each module draws heavily on the latest research and utilises the individual expertise of each of our academics.

Assessment methods include essays, reflexive writing, research reports, policy briefs, public facing blog posts and oral presentations.

Other courses

For students wishing to pursue postgraduate studies, but not seeking to complete a full Masters programme, we have two other qualifications available:

  • Postgraduate Certificate requires a total of 60 Credits*
  • Postgraduate Diploma requires a total of 120 Credits*

*Subject to programme regulations

Students studying for these complete modules from those outlined above, and will study alongside students undertaking the full degree programme.

Fieldclass

Through engagement with the field course sites, Hong Kong and Sheffield, the module will enable students to engage with interdisciplinary discussion, community focused intervention and innovation, and urban scale exploration with regard to food security and food justice. The comparisons between Hong Kong and Sheffield will enhance your understandings of how social, political, economic, cultural and physical contexts help shape how people are able to access food. Specifically students will observe the problems of food insecurity and injustice and engage with technical and community led interventions aimed at addressing these issues. The module also contributes to students’ transferable skills by developing their teamwork, critical, interdisciplinary, research design, oral presentation, written communication, reflexive, and entrepreneurial capacities.

The module is assessed via a pre-departure presentation, a conceptual and methodological reflection on the topic focus, and tour based on a topic of the student's choice that is researched while we are in Hong Kong that is posted to our blog. Students tours have focused on a range of topics linked to food security and food justice. Two particularly good examples address organic food and rice.

Ferry

The module is structured in three phases as follows:

Volunteering

Pre-departure lectures, seminars, and independent work

In this section you will receive some background information about Hong Kong that will enable you to engage at a deeper level with the SAR. You will also begin to develop an understanding of how key concepts learned elsewhere in the course can be thought through with reference to Hong Kong. We will use Sheffield as a practice space for you to work on your observational, research and analytical skills and also to provide you with a point of comparison for your work in Hong Kong. Organisational and technical details of the trip will also be discussed.

Field course trip

While you are in Hong Kong you will engage in a range of organised, independent and group activities. As exploring the city and observation are a key element of the course you will find that there will be sufficient opportunity for you to explore the city in structured and unstructured ways. While the specific organisations and groups we visit can change from year to year, in the past we have visited with the following groups:

  • Feeding Hong Kong, a food surplus redistributor
  • Food Angels, an organisation that delivers cooked meals to vulnerable people
  • The British Consulate
  • Grassroots Pantry, an organic restaurant whose owner is active in the organic and no food waste restaurant movements
  • Rooftop Republic, a supporter of rooftop gardening
  • Cathay Pacific's employee run rooftop vegetable garden
  • Daisy Tam, Hong Kong Baptist University, a scholar-advocate supporting foreign maids living in Hong Kong and a researcher on food waste

Post-field course wrap-up and de-brief

Upon our return, we will have an open discussion regarding what you found most interesting and perhaps most unsettling about the trip. This meeting will enable you to talk a bit about what you have designed for your online tour and also talk about what you will include in your workbook and get feedback from your peers. You will also have an opportunity to let us know what you found most about the course and provide some comments about what you think would make the module and the module documentation more helpful for future cohorts. This feedback is really helpful to us, so we encourage you to provide us with helpful and constructive comments in this session—we want to learn from you.

Fees

Transfers to/from Sheffield to the UK international airport, flights, shared accommodation, and fees associated with scheduled tours are included in the course fees. Local transportation, food, and travel documents are not included, students should plan to budget for these.

Dai Pei Dong

"This is a fascinating field course. It is clearly written by a course leader who knows the food geographies of Hong Kong like the back of her hand. ... I am impressed with the module." ~Ian Cook, Professor of Cultural Geography, University of Exeter, External examiner for the MA in Food Security and Food Justice.

"We saw, heard, smelled, tasted and learned so much in one week, and the experience has further strengthened my desire to work in the realm of food security and food justice while showing me some ways that might be possible." ~ Jessica Bricknell, current student.

Meet the Team

The course is taught by a team with active research interests across the field of international development. We also provide bespoke professional training provided by industry experts and host invited speakers to provide further specialist content.

Course Director: Dr. Megan Blake

Core academic staff:

Steering group:

  • Kris Gibbon-Walsh, FareShare UK
  • Alan Marsden, New Food Innovation
  • Sophie Hallam, Third Sector Café
  • Katie Badger, Alumni and Sandwell Local Authority
  • John Le Corney, Heeley City Farm
Career Opportunities

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Graduates of this programme typically go on to work in governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations operating at the local, national, and global scale. We have a steering group comprised of external partners to enable networking opportunities with potential employers and to support the career development of our students.

In addition to these partners below, we also have partnerships with other local authorities and charitable organizations.

FareShare Doncaster Heeley City Farm New Food Innovation Regather

Student View

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Katie Badger

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Graduated 2016

“The Masters' has allowed me to gain invaluable experience, knowledge and skills, particularly through completing my placement as part of my dissertation, at Doncaster Council. This experience developed my research skills substantially, as it has given me the opportunity to conduct research into food poverty at several locations across Doncaster, working with different communities.

The placement helped me significantly with securing my new job at Sandwell Council as it gave me the chance to put my knowledge of food poverty into practise, and has given me the invaluable experience of conducting research into this area for another council. As part of my new job, I will be helping to design and implement projects in communities throughout the borough; through completing my placement and having the in-depth knowledge I have gained throughout the masters, I feel I have the experience and confidence needed to do this successfully.

The professional skills module as part of the course also helped me secure the job, as it has given me experience of project management, budgeting, and several other key skills. Additionally, the international fieldwork trip was a fantastic opportunity for me to put my research skills into practise in a different country. Not only did the trip give me the opportunity to visit and explore Hong Kong, it also allowed me to work within different cultures and disciplines, which I feel are valuable skills for any career. Throughout the masters, feedback, advice and support has always been available and of an excellent standard, which I feel has helped me to improve academically. Overall, my student experience has been excellent, and I would highly recommend the masters course!”

Jessica Bricknell

Current student

"The field trip to Hong Kong allowed us to get closer to the fascinating work that many individuals (both local people, and those who have made Hong Kong their home) are doing to make the city's food system fairer and more sustainable. Particular highlights for me included meeting the inspiring Gabrielle Kirstein at Feeding Hong Kong - who told us about the complexities of coordinating flows of surplus food to organisations that can use it - and hearing from Andrew Tsui at Rooftop Republic about his visions for urban agriculture in Hong Kong. We saw, heard, smelled, tasted and learned so much in one week and the experience has further strengthened my desire to work in the realm of food security and food justice whilst showing me some ways that might be possible."

If you would like to know more about how the students think about the issues pertaining to the intersections of food security and food justice why not come visit our student blog? We also have a facebook page where we post news about what we are doing and upcoming events. https://www.facebook.com/ShefFoodMA/

You can also follow us on twitter @ShefFoodMA where we tweet news about what we are up to and information about jobs in the sector and scholarship opportunities.

Please also feel free to contact the course director, Dr. Megan Blake. She can be emailed at any time at m.blake@sheffield.ac.uk. If you would like to come visit the department this can be arranged as well.

FAQ
How many places are available on the course?

There is no cap on the number of students on this course. We usually have a cohort of 10-20 students.

Is there a cut-off date for applying to the course?

There is no official application deadline. We encourage applications to be submitted as early as possible to leave enough time for your application to be processed. We recommend you apply no later than August to begin studying in September. Many scholarships have deadlines prior to our admissions requirements so you will want to check these as well.

What are the entry requirements for the course?

Prospective students with a passion for making our food systems fairer are encouraged to apply. Food is and interdisciplinary subject area and we encourage students with any degree background provided they have the equivalent to a 2.1 UK result and are willing to think critically and engage in open debate.

Work experience is not essential and you do not need to have studied on a food related course before.

English Language Entry Requirements

If your first language is not English you will need to provide documentary evidence of English language competence before being able to being your studies with us. The minimum requirements are detailed below.

IELTS scores
Overall 6.5
Listening 6.0
Reading 6.0
Speaking 6.0
Writing 6.0

Details of other language qualifications recognised by the University of Sheffield can be found on the English Language Requirements webpage, which is located here.

How much time will I spend studying each week?

You should anticipate having 10-12 hours of contact time per week (including lectures, seminars, tutorials etc). On top of this we would expect students to spend 25-30 hours on self-directed learning activities (such as doing core and further readings, writing assignments, preparing for seminars, etc).

What kinds of support can I expect from programme tutors?

Each student is assigned a personal tutor who provides a first contact point for both academic and pastoral/personal support. In addition to your personal tutor, the programme director and individual module convenors can provide additional support for specific queries or concerns.

There is also a strong peer-support network, both within the student cohort of the course as well as provided in more formal ways through the Student Services team based in the Students’ Union.

What are the fees?

Fees for students include the costs associated with the field course excluding local transport, food, and travel documents (e.g., visas, passport costs, etc.).

Entry year 2017:
Home (UK/EU): £8500
Overseas: £20,470

The university has a number of funding opportunities for potential students to help them support their education. Please see: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/finance/pg

What is included in the course fee? What other costs are there?

The course fee includes the core costs for the fieldclass. Students may need to pay for individual medication or vaccinations, but costs for travel, accommodation, local guides and translators are included in the course fee.

Due to the highly variable costs of placements, these are not included in the course fee but must be met by the individual student. In addition to the provision of local, low-cost placements, there are various scholarships and other bursaries available to support the costs of this activity.

I want to know more: can I visit?

Applicants are always welcome to visit the Department. We run regular Open Days at which you can meet current staff and students as well as other applicants. Alternatively you can contact the course director, Dr Megan Blake to arrange a visit or a Skype call.

If you would like to know more about how the students think about the issues pertaining to the intersections of food security and food justice why not come visit our student blog? We also have a Facebook page where we post news about what we are doing and upcoming events.

You can also follow us on twitter @ShefFoodMA where we tweet news about what we are up to and information about jobs in the sector and scholarship opportunities.

Who should I contact with further questions?

Please contact the course director, Dr Megan Blake, if you have any questions about the programme. Her email address is: m.blake@sheffield.ac.uk.