Graduate student Aidee Guzman conducts a crop diversity survey at a farm site in Fresno. Photo by Rodolfo Huerta.

Graduate Certificate in Food Systems


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 master’s 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.

The GCFS is hosted by the School of Public Health, Rausser 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 undergo the certificate.

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 change. 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.

Eligibility and Requirements

Qualified applicants must:

  1. Be currently enrolled in a UC Berkeley graduate program
  2. In good academic standing: GPA of 3.0 or better

Coursework requirements:

3 courses (totaling a minimum of 9 units), each of which must be taken for a letter grade.

  1. Required core course: Transforming Food Systems: From Agroecology to Population Health (3 units, taught each fall)
  2. 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.

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


Complete the Application for Admission Form to plan out your certificate coursework. You are encouraged to apply prior to taking the core course, though it is not required. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. For students in 2-year masters programs, you are encouraged to take the core course and/or at least one elective during your first year to ensure you are able to complete the certificate requirements.

This application for admission signals a student’s interest in the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems, but does not guarantee that the certificate will be awarded, nor guarantee a seat in GCFS-approved courses.

Diagram of food systems

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.

The Fall 2020 core course will be Thursdays, 4 – 7pm. The direct link in Berkeley Guide is: Please register for 3 units. 

Elective Courses

The following electives count toward the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems. Note that not every course is offered on a yearly basis. Check for the most up to date course descriptions and class schedule. Classes in bold with ** are being taught in 2020-21.

  1. **CY PLAN C256/PB HLTH C233 Healthy Cities, 3 Units (Fall). Jason Corburn.
  2. ENE RES 275 Water and Development, 4 Units (Spring, every other year). Isha Ray.
  3. ESPM 226 Interdisciplinary Food and Agriculture Studies, 3 Units (Fall, every other year). Alastair Iles.
  4. **ESPM 230 Sociology of Agriculture, 4 Units (Fall). Kathryn de Master.
  5. **ESPM 261 Sustainability and Society, 3 Units (Fall). Alastair Iles.
  6. **ESPM 279 Seminar on Pastoralism, 3 Units (Fall and/or Spring). Lynn Huntsinger.
  7. **ESPM 280 Seminar in Range Ecosystem Planning and Policy, 3 Units (Fall). James Bartolome.
  8. **LAW 220F, Food Law and Policy, 3 Units (Spring). Steve Sugarman. (The schedule of classes for Law can be found at
  9. **MBA 292N Food Innovation Studio, 2 Units (Fall). Will Rosenzweig. (This course is by application; contact the professor for instructions.)
  10. **MBA 292T Edible Education 101, 3 Units (Spring). Will Rosenzweig. (For nonHaas students: 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 classes).
  11. **NUSCTX 260 Metabolic Bases of Human Health and Diseases, 4 Units (Spring). Andreas Stahl.
  12. **PB HLTH 206B Food and Nutrition Policies and Programs, 3 Units (Spring). Wendi Gosliner, Lia Fernald, or Barbara Laraia.
  13. PB HLTH 206D Food and Nutrition Programs and Policies in Developing Countries, 3 Units (Fall). Lia Fernald.
  14. **PB HLTH 207A Public Health Aspects of Maternal and Child Nutrition, 3 Units (Fall). Lia Fernald.
  15. PB HLTH 266A Foodborne Diseases, 2 Units (Spring, every other year). Sangwei Lu.
  16. **PB HLTH 271G Health Implications of Climate Change, 3 Units (Spring). Justin Remais.
  17. **PUB POL 290 The Social Safety Net, Poverty, and Income Inequality, 3 Units (Spring). Hilary Hoynes.
  18. PUB POL 290 The Fight for Food Justice: Mass Movement or Consumer Culture? 3-4 Units (Fall, every other year). Saru Jayaraman.

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 petition must be approved before taking class.

Certificate Completion

Students submit the Certificate Completion Form at the point that all requirements for the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems are complete. The form must be submitted by April 15 of your graduating year in order for the certificate to appear on your transcript. If you have certificate courses in progress during your final semester, you can indicate this on the form. Final grades will be verified prior to award of the certificate.

Completion of the GCFS will be noted in the memorandum section of your official transcript (not on the diploma). Certificate will be mailed after July 1st of your completion year.

If you have any questions, please contact Rosalie Z. Fanshel, certificate administrator, at