Symposium Launches Food Studies

By Harry Cramer

On Oct. 5, the College held the Cultivating Food Literacy symposium, and McCullough Social Space filled with educators, students, and activists to discuss how to educate students on the growth, distribution, and consumption of food.

It was a great day of conversation,” said Tim Spears, vice president of academic affairs. “We spoke about education at the high school level, and heard from Middlebury students who had internships through the Foodworks program.”

Foodworks is a competitive nine-week internship program based in Louisville, Ky. as well as in Addison County  which aims “to provide summer internship opportunities that enhance student learning and engagement in food studies.”

Participants work at internships to gain hands-on agriculutral skills four days a week and partcipate in a food studies curriculum on the fifth day, which focuses its sustainability, nutrition, safety, equity, distribution, economic influence, and other food-related issues.

Veronica Rodriguez ’16.5, an intern at Seed Capital Kentucky and a volunteer at the College Organic Farm said that Foodworks’ strength as a a program lay in the level of student involvement.

“My experience really implemented the idea that this was not only an internship, but also a program with the expectation that we would take ownership over our own education, and get our hands dirty in ways that we hadn’t expected before,” said Rodriguez

The symposium also featured representatives of the Navajo Kentuckians: a group of leaders of the Navajo Nation and teachers at Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Ky. The group aims to increase food literacy among at-risk students by examining the narrative and structure of digital storytelling.

Midway through the symposium, the group of educators and students visited Middlebury’s organic garden to witness the College’s own local food initiative and to demonstrate the emerging role of food in life at the College.

While the events at the symposium were intended to kick off the launch of the new Food Studies program, the administration is still in the process of further developing the program’s curriculum and academic infrastructure.

“We are moving ahead with a senior faculty hire in Food Studies,” said Spears. “We’re also starting to identify opportunities for students to pursue Food Studies at our partner schools abroad. We’re trying to create a program which, when you put all the pieces together, will give students an interdisciplinary, integrated understanding of food systems.”

Special Assistant to the Director at the Office for Careers and Internships Amy Mclashan also highlighted the role of Food Studies within the realm of an integrated liberal arts education.

“The traditional view of education was bounded by the walls of the classroom, but as I listened today, I was imagining those walls becoming increasingly porous, and that the classroom is really just a small patch of space on a much broader landscape in which learning is happening,” said McGlashan in address during the symposium. “Food provides us with a means to connect across cultures, across countries, and across languages.”

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