Using food ethnographies to promote systems thinking and intergenerational engagement among college undergraduates

Julia Lapp, Ithaca College
Kathryn A. Caldwell, Ithaca College


This article discusses an intergenerational, interdisciplinary service-learning project that integrated courses on life-cycle nutrition and developmental sychology. Students from the two classes worked in teams to interview older adult learning /miners in their community about diet, lifestyle, and personal life events deemed relevant to nutrition and wellbeing, to create food ethnographies based on information learned. As a service-learning component, students provided the older adults with individualized nutrition and wellness plans at the end of the project, based on the older adult's expressed interests and concerns. In this paper, we describe how the project was carried out; discuss how learning goals pertaining to systems thinking, sustainability consciousness, and intergenerational engagement were assessed; and present the results of that assessment. Results of qualitative analyses of student work, as well as quantitative analyses of a course survey indicate that the project facilitated student learning related to the three goals.