Sustainable Food


Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., describes food as “the physical manifestation of the world we live in.” A culture’s cuisine depends on the environmental conditions surrounding it, so maintaining those healthy conditions is crucial to food diversity and availability. Dr. Jones’ course on Food Policy and Sustainability focuses on these issues which exist at the crossroads of conservation, economics, and sociopolitics.

The course, which Dr. Jones has taught since 2011, is offered every Fall semester for the Online Masters of Natural Resources program. The relationship between food and the environment is often overlooked, especially amid everyday conversations on climate change and urban sprawl.  Jones emphasizes that food in an extraordinarily important aspect of political ecology because every individual plays a part; human demand for food has a direct impact on conservation and policy-making. A more informed understanding of food issues is essential for successfully identifying stakeholders.


To know about food sustainability means you not only have to explore conservation, but also see the issue from economic and sociopolitical perspectives. ~Jennifer Jones, PhD 

Food Policy and Sustainability welcomes graduate students from all backgrounds; being part of a diverse group generates rich conversations about problems the food industry faces. Jones has noticed that each new course section produces unique perspectives, especially on the topic of food culture. Other course discussions revolve around agriculture subsidies in the United States, as well as the role of food aid and whether people have a duty to provide nutrition overseas.

In addition to teaching for the Master of Natural Resources program, Jones also serves as the CEO for the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont which hosts programs to provide experience in sustainability leadership for all ages. Her role at the Institute gives her an aerial view of how one aspect of conservation impacts others. This vantage point guides Food Policy and Sustainability by imploring students to ask themselves larger environmental questions in addition to identifying their own individual roles as users, eaters, and consumers.

Former student Paige Ellestad learned to think about food, and its global impact, in a new light:

“[The course] was extremely helpful for my personal career and I really value the knowledge that I have acquired. I mainly have a background in Conservation Biology, so the class really made me look at natural resources from a different perspective (economic, political, etc.). I continue to think about food sovereignty and, at work, I am actually trying to open up a new local Farmers Market.”

Food Policy and Sustainability exposes students to a new paradigm of thought they can take with them through their careers. They not only experience personal growth, but they are also given the skills to encourage positive change and discourse around the issues of global nutrition.


Interested in enrolling in NR 5884 Food Policy and Sustainability for Fall 2018?  Contact Dr. Kieran Lindsey for assistance.

Dr. Jennifer Jones is an educator, practitioner, and academic who focuses on the relationships between people and nature, including conservation, global food sustainability, and environmental governance. She currently teaches for the MNR program at Virginia Tech, and serves as the President and CEO of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Previously, she was a Program Director for the International Honors Program, part of World Learning, where she managed comparative college-level study abroad programs on five continents. She has also served as a Visiting Professor at Williams College, spent five years in South Africa studying the relationship between protected areas and neighboring communities, and has taught, researched, and traveled in more than 30 countries. Dr. Jones received a Ph.D. and an MS in Environment and Society from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and a B.S. from the University of Florida.

The Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability thanks the following photographers for sharing their work through the Creative Commons License:  Eugene Kim; World Bank Photo CollectionUN Women Asia and the Pacific; and David Baxendale.