FSS-cohort-group

Introducing the first Food Systems & Society cohort…

This fall, we’re welcoming our first cohort into the MS in Food Systems & Society program. The graduate students hail from Oregon, Washington, Georgia, Massachusetts, California and Minnesota. Their research interests and community activities range from environmental sustainability to labor laws, food insecurity to nutrition, food banking to farmers’ markets. Learn a little more — in their own words — about this amazing new cohort:

CarolinaElizondo-150Carolina Elizondo

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I am deeply interested in food systems because I want to work towards reintroducing a sense of responsibility to our society. A responsible food system would require us to take back and further develop responsibility for our environment, our health, our economy, our politics, etc. Through my work experiences I have noticed that youth greatly benefit from an expected sense of responsibility; empowerment often follows responsibility. Being such a daily and intimate encounter, I believe that food and the system that drives it, has the potential to create widespread awareness and accountability.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I am eager for the network of individuals that will be established thanks to the nature of the MS FSS program. Being surrounded by individuals with similar interests, but with such diverse experiences and happenings holds tremendous potential for learning. And of course, I am excited to gain a more balanced and optimistic perspective on our food system.

ElleMari-150Elle Mari

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I’m a huge proponent of food justice and believe everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, should have access to healthy and affordable real food. We deal with a multitude of health disparities in our country, largely related to our culture of food that often does not support sustainable agriculture and the small farmer.

I worked in youth food justice and nutrition promotion for quite awhile and was always incredibly warmed and encouraged by the positive reactions of kids learning about food for the first time. Once kids are empowered to be in the position of exposure to new foods by way of growing, cooking, and most importantly–eating, it opens up so many new opportunities for them to actively participate in their food choices. I’d like to see a bit of a sea-change where food justice programming for youth becomes the norm.

Similar to my work with young people, I’m equally encouraged to keep pushing the needle forward by my work with small farmers. I currently manage farmers markets and a variety of small farmer-focused initiatives. I feel lucky (if not admittedly sometimes exhausted) to be in the position of helping people identify new local food opportunities and support sustainable agriculture.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I’m really excited to learn from other people’s ideas in the program so I can take that back to the communities I work in. I’m also looking forward to digging into the history and economics of food systems. Ideally I’d like to become a professional food systems facilitator or teacher to make a greater impact.

ErickaCarlson-150Ericka Carlson

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I’m interested in this course of study because the problems that we need to address in the food system are solvable. It will require collaboration, creative funding strategies, new leadership and inclusion, but we can do it. In rebuilding our food system, we can address the critical issues facing our society today: climate change, food insecurity, food waste, fair labor practices throughout the food chain, and the first generation of children who may not outlive their parents due to obesity and diet-related diseases.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I’m excited to work with a cohort of emerging food systems leaders and to study with national experts in the field while being based in Portland, OR, one of the country’s most forward-thinking, and delicious, agricultural regions. I plan to continue my work teaching and building awareness of the challenges that we face in our food system. Along the way, I hope to spotlight the changemakers who are defining solutions for a better future.

GraceWilson-150Grace Wilson

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I want to be part of the positive change our food system so desperately needs. In order to do this I believe careful study and a close review of history is needed.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I am excited to use the knowledge I gain to help educate and inform others about our current food system, how we got here, and where we can go in the future.

JaneWolkowicz-150Jane Wolkowicz

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I became interested in food systems and social change while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan, where food security and malnutrition are common problems throughout the year in the frigid Siberian climate. Upon returning to the United States, I found it difficult to adjust to a diet dependent on processed food and began reading as much as I could about how our own food system operates.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I’m most excited about working with a group of people who are passionate about social change! Eventually, I’d like to start an online magazine dedicated to the politics surrounding the flaws in the food system. The classes and projects in this program relating to entrepreneurship and public health will give me the knowledge/tools to help me accomplish this goal.

KristyAthens-150Kristy Athens

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

When I moved to seven acres in the Columbia River Gorge in 2003, I met a number of orchardists and farmers. In the process of writing my book, Get Your Pitchfork On!: The Real Dirt on Country Living, I learned even more about how small farms operate. I was surprised to realize on how thin a margin most farmers skate, barely breaking even—if that. How could it be, I thought, that America’s farmers are barely making it? Isn’t agriculture the basis of our society? This quandary was the catalyst of my interest in food systems and food justice.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

For 23 years as a writer, editor and project manager, I’ve thrived as a generalist. Occasionally, I’d be assigned a particularly interesting piece, such as the impact wildcrafters have on the pharmaceutical industry (and, more powerfully, vice versa) or the efforts the wine industry is making to improve their enormous carbon footprint with glass bottles. When writing my book I talked to other sources, and read a lot of literature in print and on the Internet, but the process was less than rigorous. I would like to take my research and communications skills and move them to a new level, so they’re not an end in themselves but more of a tool for a greater purpose. I would also like to develop my business-management skills via the MBA cross-over courses offered through the Food Systems & Society program.

MalloryCochrane-150Mallory Cochrane

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

Through the culmination of my experience, I understand that, with immense social and political conditions, there must be tangible strategies that mobilize communities to utilize accessible alternatives to the current industrial food system. A healthy local food system is dependent on the number of people able to participate in it; fresh, local food is a right not a privilege.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

Striving to be a leader of innovative, progressive actions, my goal is to find a place in the food system in which I can be most effective in creating sustainable, positive changes that impact a broad range of communities and move towards a just food system. The cohort based learning environment is an ideal style for me, as I thrive working collaboratively to implement action-based solutions. The MS FSS program will provide me with the tools to pragmatically assess issues and creatively engage communities in new efforts.

MelanieRiddle-150Melanie Riddle

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I am extremely interested in sustainability and creating change within the food system. Food access and affordability are major issues across the country and around the world. This far I’ve been able to work as a farmer, providing food for the community and I would like to improve the sustainability of these systems. Instead of growing the food, I would like to help farmers provide food for those in need. Farming is challenging and I am aiming to make it easier and more realistic for everyone.

As a teenager, my interest in farming and local food began when I realized that not everyone had access to fresh, local produce. When I would work and volunteer on the farm, I didn’t think twice about collecting eggs or harvesting greens for lunch. When I moved on, I realized how lucky I was to have had such easy access to fresh food. Although not everyone needs to be near a farm, they should all be able to have the same options and choices for food.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I’m excited about learning alongside my fellow classmates and grappling with the intricacies of creating change within the food system in order to sustain a burgeoning society. This program will allow me to delve deeper into the issues around food and farming, with a specific focus on the connection between community and food. This program will help me to acquire the skills needed to create sustainable change within the food system.

I am most excited about being challenged and questioning my beliefs about what would make sense around food systems and society. We all have different ideas and experiences; within this program we can begin to share and brainstorm what might be possible.

NancyAala-150Nancy Aala

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

Food systems are interesting because they intertwine with almost every aspect of life- for everyone. Locally, nationally, and internationally food strengthens us or brings us to our knees in desperation. Food system practices affect human equality, education, wellness, and future generations. Food is art, a peace offering, and a reason to war. It touches all of our lives in both simple and complex ways. It always has and it always will- the world over. There are many areas within our food system that deserve change and focus in order to strengthen people and provide for progress. I would like to do my part.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I am most excited about the group exploration of food systems. The interaction with folks focused on our food systems with intent to implement change while questioning ideas, attitudes, business practices, and norms. Varied personalities within the program will bring to the table a multitude of experiences and knowledge which will be valuable while contemplating roads to change.

RebekahMende-150Rebekah Mende

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

It has been quite the evolution that has brought me to this point. I find it difficult to label “primary reasons” because it has been a chain of events in time that have increased my awareness of how food has become such a polarizing issue. Our current food system is so tragically flawed that I cannot help but develop a distrust and a desire to alter its trajectory. I find it frightening that food has been replaced by food products and that these food products have led us to be the unhealthiest developed nation. I am angered by the social labels that are attached to food as we determine who has access to what. I am exhausted by my own frustration at trying to keep affordable and healthy food on my table while maintaining a tight budget. This is what I think about, day by day.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I intend for this program to be a catalyst for my development and enrichment within the field of food justice. I am excited to learn from my fellow cohort members and I am excited to embark on this journey and to discover who I become at the end of the program.

SaraGriffen-150Sara Griffen

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I am currently engaged in the work of food banking. While fulfilling, this work addresses chronic users and is not positioned to actually end hunger. I am interested in real social change for this segment of the population whom I serve.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

The ability to learn from others who are currently doing this work but doing so in a setting where I can step back and think critically about the what is needed and how to get there. I have found that just reacting and copying all the many and various programs, projects and activities other Food Banks are engaged in does not necessarily work in my unique area – along the very fluid Mexican border in California. I look forward to a time of personal growth while building solid relationships with others who are interested in social change.

SarahDillon-150Sara Dillon

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

I am passionate about health, nutrition, environmental sustainability and social equity. Therefore I am concerned for the future of our food system, but am very excited about the changes already taking place. I look forward to becoming a more active agent in this movement!

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I am excited about meeting people who have similar passions to mine, learning from and collaborating with them, and creating valuable connections around the country/world. From this community and our studies I am excited to be equipped with skills and knowledge to better create sustainable change.

placeholder-150Bryn Marie McConnell

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

The primary reason I am interested in this program is because as a former social worker I became outraged in the poor quality of food and access to healthy food options in some communities. I am incredibly interested in the socioeconomic influences within communities, and I am excited to learn more. I will look forward to learning the incredibly rich knowledge from everyone involved in this program!!

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I am very excited about learning how to creating change in communities so that all people have equal access to healthy food. I am also excite to meet and engage with professors and educators within this field and program, and attempt to soak up all of their knowledge and skills.

placeholder-150Tim James Galarneau

What are some of the primary reasons you are interested in food systems and social change?

From conducting research and leading campaigns to increase education and support for sustainable food & farming policies in California and across the US to developing innovative educational programs, I’ve spent the last ten years working to connect grass roots efforts advocating for a green, healthy, and fair food economy. From these experiences, I have come to view global industrial agribusiness—and the simultaneous resistance to it—as one of the most significant points of applied research and problem solving of our time, with enormous repercussions for communities as well as the ecological health of our planet. Further, I am really interested in how social political forces, including new leadership emergent from vulnerable communities, are raising their voices with substantiated data on how the food system is tearing at the fabric of their own health and more broadly reinforcing a neoliberal agenda of ensuring a low wage economy rife with race, class, and gender bias persists.

What are you most excited about the MS FSS program for furthering your work in food systems and social change?

I am excited to think deeply, critically, and openly with a cohort representing varying geographies, life experiences, and histories that will enrich our collective dialogue and efforts to forward social change in the food system.