Food Systems

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Graduate Certificate in Food Systems (GCFS) responds to an escalating need to empower new leaders with the capacity to create innovative solutions to pressing food and agriculture challenges. Building on UC Berkeley’s strength as a multi-disciplinary pioneer in food systems studies, the Certificate in Food Systems prepares Masters and Doctoral students to think critically about the multi-level, multi-system factors that affect food production, distribution, and consumption locally, nationally, and globally. This interdisciplinary program complements students’ primary fields of study by addressing the ecological, social, health, political, policy, legal, and economic dimensions of food and agriculture and providing graduates with the necessary theoretical framework and practical skills that can be applied across diverse and emerging food-systems challenges.


Students pursuing the certificate take three courses: a required core course entitled “Transforming Food Systems: From Agroecology to Population Health,” and two elective courses chosen from a list of over 15 options.  


The GSFS is hosted by the School of Public Health, College of Natural Resources, and Goldman School of Public Policy, and administered by the Berkeley Food Institute. Students from any graduate program at UC Berkeley are eligible to complete the certificate.

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Any UC Berkeley graduate student in good standing (GPA of 3.0 or better) may apply. Completion of the Application for Admission Form is required before completing the certificate core course. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis.

This application for admission signals a student's interest in the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems, but does not guarantee a seat in GCFS-approved courses.

Certificate Requirements

The Graduate Certificate in Food Systems consists of 3 courses (totaling a minimum of 9 units), each of which must be taken for a letter grade.

  • Required core course – Transforming Food Systems: From Agroecology to Population Health (3 units, taught each fall)
  • Two elective courses, chosen from the list below, totaling a minimum of 6 units. Courses not on the electives list will be considered on a case by case basis, via submission of the Elective Petition Form.

We encourage students to take all certificate courses outside their primary degrees; however one course can overlap with primary degree requirements.

Core Course

"Transforming Food Systems: From Agroecology to Population Health" is held every fall and taught by Kristine Madsen, Associate Professor in the Joint Medical Program/Public Health Nutrition and Faculty Director of the Berkeley Food Institute. The course is conducted as a weekly seminar with guest lectures by UC Berkeley's preeminent food systems scholars and other experts in the field. It takes a solutions-oriented approach to addressing the pressing problems in current food systems through strategies used by the disciplines of agroecology, policy, law, public health, and business in working to improve food systems and apply their varied approaches to real-world case studies. Through weekly readings, discussions, and problem-solving sessions, students will gain a broad understanding of food systems and the leverage points that can be targeted to improve the health of people and the planet.

Elective Courses

Note that every course is offered on a yearly basis.
A,RESEC 241Economics and Policy of Production, Technology and Risk in Agricultural and Natural Resources3
CY PLAN C256/PB HLTH C233Healthy Cities3
ENE,RES 275Water and Development4
ESPM 226Interdisciplinary Food and Agriculture Studies3
ESPM 230Sociology of Agriculture4
ESPM 261Sustainability and Society3
ESPM 279Seminar on Pastoralism3
ESPM 280Seminar in Range Ecosystem Planning and Policy3
LAW 220FCourse Not Available (The Schedule of Classes for Law can be found at
MBA 292NCourse Not Available (This course is by application; contact the professor for instructions.)2
MBA 292T - Edible Education, The MBA Program does not use CalCentral to manage its course enrollments. You must instead use the Haas Online Registrar system. Go to to submit your request. Requests open in early December for spring classes3
NUSCTX 260Metabolic Bases of Human Health and Diseases Graduate Level4
PB HLTH 206BFood and Nutrition Policies and Programs3
PB HLTH 206DFood and Nutrition Programs and Policies in Developing Countries3
PB HLTH 207APublic Health Aspects of Maternal and Child Nutrition2,3
PB HLTH 266AFoodborne diseases2
PB HLTH 271GHealth Implications of Climate Change3
PUB POL 290Special Topics in Public Policy (The Social Safety Net, Poverty, and Income Inequality - Spring)3
PUB POL 290Special Topics in Public Policy (The Fight for Food Justice: Mass Movement or Consumer Culture - Fall every other year)3-4

Elective Petitions

Students can petition for graduate courses beyond the standard elective list to count toward the certificate. Particularly 290 Special Topics and 299 Independent Study courses will be considered on a case by case basis, as topics pertain to food systems. Students must submit the Elective Petition Form at least one month prior to enrolling in the proposed course. Electives proposed by the petition must be approved before taking the class.

Program Benefits

The Graduate Certificate in Food Systems provides a unique opportunity for making connections with students from across the campus with a shared interest in food systems. Typically students from ten different Berkeley degree programs participate in the core course; together they make an interdisciplinary intellectual community not typically found within students' primary degree programs.

The core course and certificate provides an integrated and structured overview of food systems such that graduates understand complex "production webs," how each aspect of these systems feeds into and depends on other aspects, and how different disciplines (ecology, business, policy, law, public health) have approached challenges in food systems. Through the certificate, students are exposed to multidisciplinary experiences and trained in analytical and applied skills. Thus, students who complete the certificate are better contributors to the multidisciplinary teams that are increasingly leading food systems changes. Further, students will be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of various strategies (e.g., legal, political, or market-based) that they might pursue as they work to improve food systems during their careers.


Kristine Madsen, Associate Professor in the Joint Medical Program/Public Health Nutrition and Faculty Director of the Berkeley Food Institute, serves as the director for the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems.

Contact Information

Berkeley Food Institute

141 University Hall

Berkeley, CA 94720-3100

Phone: 510-643-8821

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Program Manager

Rosalie Z. Fanshel

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