The Real Cost of Food

The Real Cost of Food

I am currently developing my popular course The Real Cost of Food to offer online. The course acknowledges that food production requires a range of inputs and creates a range of waste outputs and impacts. Most of these are invisible to consumers, since most people are not intimately involved in food production, processing, disposal or often even preparation anymore. This course will explore the real costs of food to workers, producers, consumers, and to the more-than-human world. The goal of the course is to teach the value of seeing the food system and the products it delivers in a multifaceted way, rather than judging based solely on one or just a few outcomes or impacts.

The class will be offered for $99. It will open for enrollment in August 2019, will begin in September, and will run for 8 consecutive weeks. I am currently running a GoFundMe Campaign to raise capital so I can develop my website to run the class. By contributing $50 or more you can earn free enrollment in the class, as well as other rewards. An outline of the course’s content is offered below, and if you page down further you can read testimonials from previous students of mine.

Week 1, An Introduction to Food Systems: will cover modern industrial food chains, the history of food production and consumption, the many costs and impacts associated with producing, processing, distributing, consuming, and disposing of food, and will offer a brief introduction to systems theory and how we might use it to better understand the workings of food systems.

Week 2, Environmental Costs of Food, Part 1: will cover the energy intensity of food production, water use in food production, and how food production contributes to land use change and the impacts this causes.

Week 3, Environmental Costs of Food, Part 2: will cover how food production impacts global nutrient cycles, the pollution caused by pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer use, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production.

Week 4, Labor in the Food System: will cover the costs, both monetary and otherwise, borne by laborers up and down the food chain as well as the tension between workers who want food to cost more so their wages can be higher and consumers who want food to be cheaper. 

Week 5, Food Business Owners: will cover the costs, both monetary and otherwise, borne by those who own and operate businesses in the food sector, and the tension between them and consumers who want food to be less expensive.

Week 6, The Costs to Consumers, Part 1: will cover the monetary cost of food and how it has changed over the years, factors that contribute to food insecurity and the loss of food sovereignty, and introduce participants to political issues in the food space.

Week 7, The Costs to Consumers, Part 2: will cover the health implications of industrial diets, the impacts and causes of chronic inflammation, and a general overview of the human microbiome and how it is impacted by the food we eat.

Week 8, Responding Effectively: will invite participants to strategize about how to engage in politics to enhance their food security and sovereignty, and will offer space to reflect on the course’s overall content.


Professor Garza created the most insightful and well-composed course I had the opportunity to take while at the University of Vermont. His thoughtfully assembled lessons included a balance of hard sciences and social sciences, and a balance of mentally stimulating assignments and engaging discussions, providing his students with the tools with which to examine the course’s complex topics. He is an excellent communicator and an effective instructor, and I hope that students have an opportunity to learn with him for many years to come.” -Alayna T.

For me, one of the most meaningful understandings I got out of your courses was exactly how much the global market influences what we consider “normal” in food terms. Potatoes are my favorite example. There are hundreds of different domesticated species, and yet we regularly see maybe 4 different ones available in supermarkets. I would recommend this class to anyone who wants to eat ethically as well as for people who are passionate about food in any way.” -Missy C.

I had the privilege of taking three of Eric Garza’s courses throughout my time at the University of Vermont. Each was equally thoughtful, challenging and informative. Eric’s courses perpetuated not only my knowledge of, but my general passion for our food systems, which are ever so complex and always changing.” -Ashley R.

Eric’s class was one of the most thought-provoking I took in my master’s program at University of Vermont. At once both incredibly applied and also theoretical, it helped me to understand the role of energy in so many systems and products of our economy and built environment. It also was challenging on a deeply personal level—the intrinsic message of what we were learning was to challenge and reconsider our role in the energy economy, in the food system, and in our communicates.” -Daniel K.

A thought provoking class that gave real world ways for us to see our relationship to our food system. Eric was a passionate professor who gave us the opportunity to critically think and to be an active part of our learning. I enjoyed the activity of tracking the carbon footprints of various agricultural operations here in Vermont.” -Meg D.

Eric’s ability to clearly and succinctly apply complex systems theory to the paradoxical food system in America somehow makes very complicated topics seem simple to understand. Eric has a true knack for combining visual and verbal learning tools that allow a diverse group of students to navigate and explore their own interests within the food system.” -Michelle S.

Professor Garza was truly a formative influence in my developing interest in food systems as a student at UVM; his thought-provoking and assumption-smashing lectures are refreshing for systems thinkers who enjoy the complexity of wicked problems like the food system. I have him to thank for challenging my blanket assumptions about the sustainability of local and small-scale agriculture, especially as it pertains to energy use.” -Olivia P.

Professor Garza helped enhance my education at UVM my expanding how I perceived my own footprint within the food system and how I could help inspire change within the food industry! Everyone should take his course or at least take a moment to chat with him and everything he has to offer the community.” -Ella F.

I took The Real Cost of Food with Eric Garza a few years ago and still reflect on what I learned in that class, especially on the complexity of the food system. The class encouraged me to take a deeper look into the source of my food including where it comes from and who was part of the process of getting it to me, from small farmers to large industries. It was engaging and I would recommend others interested in taking a nuanced look at various aspects of the food system to take this class!” -Michelle G.

Professor Garza’s course helped both broaden and deepen my understanding of the subject. The tools and lessons I gained from his class have helped me enter into the field of agricultural development, and I carry them with me in my work still.” -Jini K.

Two of my favorite courses as an undergraduate student at UVM were The Real Cost of Food and Complexity in Food Systems, both taught by Eric Garza. Eric created such a welcoming space for students to engage in open discussion and healthy debate while simultaneously pushing us to question our own beliefs and opinions. The required coursework was practical, easy to understand, and intriguing. These courses were some of the few where I actually looked forward to doing my homework. Eric is a unique individual who brings an unparalleled life experience to the classroom. These courses simply couldn’t have the same impact if taught by a different educator.” -Carolyn R.

As both a former student in one of Eric’s food literacy classes and an avid listener of his podcasts for the past couple years, I highly recommend taking his classes. I see Eric as an independent thinker who strives to live an intentional life and has inspired others around him, including me, to do the same. Something that stood out to me about Eric as a teacher is his fearlessness in leading the class to explore difficult questions together. I appreciated that the stimulating intellectual discussion he inspired was grounded in a relevance that extended beyond the classroom.” -Rylee W.

The space for learning that Eric creates is intentional, thought-provoking, and accessible. Rather than chasing down single answers or conclusions, Eric encourages students to look at issues regarding food systems from all angles, most importantly to challenge assumptions of ourselves and society. Eric’s personal knowledge and openness to conversation is refreshing and critical in guiding students to new understandings of food in society as people and as stewards.” -Nell C.