Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

SOCIOL 4425W - Sociology of Food

Story of Your Food assignment


  • Make studies around food and agriculture personal by learning and sharing about the story of a consumable item that is important to your life
  • Apply sociological concepts to the study of food and agriculture
  • Gain an increased understanding of the history of this item and the social, cultural, policy issues surrounding this item
  • Increase research skills and gain an awareness of research bias by utilizing appropriate sources during your research.
  • Build professional presentation skills
  • Wrestle with societal, environmental, ethical implications of the item (e.g. labor, environmental, human community relations)

Steps to Successful Assignment Completion: 

  1. Watch and or read the Story of Stuff film/ script (A link to the film and the script are available in the online schedule and under online readings).
  2. Review, critique, and discuss examples of the Story of Food assignments done on Canvas in light of this assignment description.
  3. Select a consumable item that is important to you.  
  4. Focus on an important component of that item for at least part of the story. When selecting an item with multiple components, be prepared to focus on an important element otherwise this assignment will NOT be manageable. For example, the model assignment for your review on chocolate focuses on cocoa and not sugar, milk, etc..
  5. Hone research skills by participating in the library research workshop.
  6. Write a commentary.  See directions below (There will be four versions of this commentary, countint the Outline.)
  7. Construct and present a PowerPoint  (Use selected pieces of the commentary since you have limited time -see directions below.  There will be three versions of this PowerPoint; you will present the third and final version)
  8. Reflect on your presentation as well as others by completing a reflection –How would you evaluate yourself? What do you think went well, and what could you have done differently?
  9. Record a video your final presentation (stay tuned for directions)


For this assignment you will produce:

  1. A detailed written record of your process (Commentary)
  2. An oral presentation (PowerPoint)

There will be four versions of this project:

  1. First Outline
  2. Version 1 – A first attempt to fill the outline in with details and narrative
  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 knock 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 topics.  Cite particular readings and videos we learned in class. Listen in class and review Canvas online schedule for potential ways to connect themes to be Story of Food.  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 class concepts you might integrate into your project:

  • social and environmental costs/exterality
  • the role of individual versus social structures
  • consumer sovereignty
  • branding
  • globalization
  • productivism
  • values based labeling
  • commodification
  • technology treadmill   

Personal and/or societal historical significance

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

History could an important part of this depending on the nature of the product; you may want to consider how technological innovations may have 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.

Process/Product Life Cycle

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

  • extraction/cultivation
  • production
  • distribution
  • consumption
  • disposal of packaging

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 economic and social themes here.

Marketing/Consumption dimensions

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

Human Dignity/Community/Social Dimensions

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

  • labor conditions
  • access issues,
  • distribution of negative and positive externalities associated with the product  
  • how might some aspect of the product’s “life cycle” affect community/family relations?

For all these questions, the focus should be on the product itself and not general company activities/ policy/mission.

Environmental Issues

This will likely connect with social/community/social 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.

Context, Alternatives

How might the content areas above, especially the 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.

Interactive Elements

(see “written requirements” below for full description):

The way most students in the past have made it interactive is to construct three questions that could be used to make your presentation more interactive. All of these questions need to relate to class themes.

Write some justification regarding each question that describes why this question is important to you AND how it relates to a core element of your presentation.  Three sentence minimum of justification for each question.

You only need to include one question in your oral presentation

If you have other ideas that would make your presentation interactive, feel free to substitute for questions as long as you have a clear justification.

Reflection on process

Include a paragraph that addresses the following questions:

  • What were some of the successes and challenges with the research?
  • How might Dr. Brock or Rachel Brekhus, class librarian, help you navigate these challenges?
  • In Versions 2 and 3 be sure to discuss how your improved your presentation and commentary using peer and instructor feedback.

Make sure you consider the CRAAP test and discussion in class on evaluating scientific information and interpreting data.


Consult and cite at least three peer reviewed articles/scholarly sources. See Dr. Brock if you have questions on what constitutes a peer reviewed/scholarly source.

You need a variety of sources. (viz., You cannot solely rely on resources from the company /producer)

Make sure you cite all articles, books, websites, or email communication that you incorporated into your report using correct APA formatting. Do not just cut and paste weblinks with no associated information.

See for specific formatting details.

You need to include all relevant information on each reference citation so I can follow up on your research. 

Formatting Requirements

Written Content

Purpose:  To provide more detailed information about your research process and findings, as your presentation is too short to provide all of the necessary information. 

Length:  Minimum of eight pages, 12 point font, 1” inch margins, double spaced not including your bibliography.  For students presenting as a group, each individual student must contribute the equivalent of eight pages for WI credit.

Oral Presentation

Overall Structure: similar to written component  (minus sharing challenges and opportunities with the research)

Length: 5-7 minutes PowerPoint presentation for individual presentation, or 9-13 minutes for two or three students on one project

 (You may include a 1 minute or shorter video if it is central to your presentation.)

Content:  You will have limited time and will NOT be able to cover all of the information that you research and documented in your written commentary. Please choose what you share orally wisely.

Audience engagement:  Creativity! Emotion! Humor!

Using eye contact, passion, and questions for your audience, create an interactive environment.

Professionalism: Preparedness, organization, appropriate length, visual appeal, and relevance of information

Important Considerations

Fun and Creativity

It is more fun if you pick an item that you really enjoy or choose not to consume for a particular reason. Your enthusiasm will show! It is also more enjoyable for your classmates if you can bring in an example of your item. If it is a food item, perhaps you can share some with the class. Or, as an alternative, you could bring in a visual or a sample.  Be creative with the ways you make your presentation engaging!

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, in fact, 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. 


Make sure to make connections and integrate the required components into a cohesive project.


There are several examples posted on Canvas, you are encouraged to look at them to further understand what an excellent project looks like. Be sure to especially focus on the chocolate example.