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SOCIOL 4425W - Sociology of Food

Story of Your Food assignment (Abridged)

What You Will Produce

There are two parts to this project: 

  1. A written record of your process in much more detail than the oral component.
  2. An oral presentation incorporating a PowerPoint)

There will be four versions of this project:

  1. First Outline
  2. Version 1 – Commentary
  3. Version 2- Improve on Version 1 AND Describe how you incorporated insights from workshopping it in class
  4. Version 3- Improve on Version 2 AND Describe how you incorporated instructor feedback into your third version

Content Areas
(In detail in written commentary; more briefly in oral presentation)

Overall Story: Important considerations

Make sure the pieces integrate together to create an overall story on a consumable item (remember the story is not about a business/company). You'll need an introduction and conclusion that gives a reader a sense of how the pieces tie together.&

Please note these content areas are to be written/presented in order that makes sense for your project, which will not be in the order listed. Also, note that there may be overlap between the parts depending on how you cover them so though it may seem like a lot you may be knocked out two or three at a time.

Connect to concepts and specific themes in the class- How do your findings connect to themes we have learned in the class? Successfully define and apply at least three class concepts related to topics.  Cite particular readings and videos we learned in class. Listen in class, skim the textbook and review the Canvas online schedule for potential ways to connect themes to be Story of Stuff.  This is the most important part of the assignment and should be integrated throughout the presentation. Note that class concepts should be addressed in the interactive component (see below). 

Examples of potential class connections: 

  • social and environmental costs/externality
  • the role of the individual versus social structures
  • consumer sovereignty 
  • emotional marketing/ branding
  • globalization 
  • productivism
  • commodification
  • technology treadmill

Personal and/or societal historical significance

Why did you choose this item? How does it impact your life? 

History could be an important part of this depending on the nature of the product –you may want to consider - What scientific/technological innovations changed the nature of this product and how the product may have shaped or been shaped by the cultural/political landscape? 

These are topics you may want to cover at the beginning of the presentation/commentary to give context and build interest for your audience/readers.


Give some sense of the process and the relevant steps in this item's life cycle:

  • extraction/cultivation
  • production
  • distribution
  • consumption
  • disposal (of packaging or food waste)

Transportation may be an interesting piece of this. You may choose to highlight one or more of these but keep in mind you do not want to get too technical with the mechanical process of a complex item. This is not an engineering class. Focus on social themes here.

Marketing/Consumption dimensions

  • How has it been marketed historically and currently?
  • How has this impacted public opinion of the item?
  • Why and how has this product been consumed?
  • Has this changed over time? (For example, consider concepts such as icons covered in the marketing and branding)

Human Dignity/Community Dimensions

This should connect with the process. What impact does the cultivation/extraction, processing, production, consumption, and/or disposal have on human communities? Social issues could relate to:

  • Labor conditions
  • Access issues
  • Distribution of negative and positive externalities associated with the product
  • How might the use of the product affect community/family relations?

For all of these questions, the focus should be on the product itself and no general company activities/policies mission.

Environmental Issues

This will likely connect with social/community dimensions. What kind of ecological impact does the extraction/cultivation, production, distribution, consumption, disposal of the item have on the earth? Again, you need to focus on the product itself and not general company activities/policy/mission. 


How might the content areas above especially with regards to human dignity and environmental issues compare with other substitutes/related products? Consider covering an alternative that may attempt to address some of these issues you discuss. For example, fair trade chocolate in the chocolate example addressing child labor issues.

When You Can't Find Information

It is possible that for some items there is not a lot of specific information available.  You may not be able to find specific answers to these questions, but that may be part of the story. Speculation is encouraged when you cannot find specific answers. For example: if you chose a mango from Brazil, perhaps you can find information about the Brazil mango industry in general. If you chose the cheese in a frozen pizza, you may be able to find out specifics on the company that made the pizza and where they source their various ingredients.

For further information on the written paper, the PowerPoint, and the interactive components you will create for your Story of Food assignment, see the full assignment description.