Thrilled with Chatham’s Food Studies Program by Alexandra

Posted in My first year as a Food Studies student on November 21st, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

I am thrilled to be in Chatham’s Food Studies program! Everyone who I have interacted with so far has been more than supportive and I am truly excited to go to class every time. I have been overwhelmed with the number of lectures and events offered through the program…I wish that I could attend more of them. I selected my major because I knew that I wanted to learn more about that which sustains us all. I love to learn about the differences in people, and food is a big part of that. I am a Pittsburgh native who loves this city. I moved to Delaware for awhile to enjoy being close to the beach, family, and to do some social work, but I was drawn back home. I live with my partner and my two dogs in Regent Square where we spend lots of time in the park. My neighbors have taught my so much about nature and gardening ala Masanobu Fukuoka. I am the assistant box office manager at The Pittsburgh Public Theater full time, where I have worked off and on for over nine years. It is a wonderful organization that I am happy to be a part of. I love learning about food and sharing all of my little bits of information and recipes with my family. My favorite part of student life at Chatham is the interesting and exciting group of people I share the classroom with. And I am hoping to have a “life-changing” moment here.

Changing the Food System – by Becky

Posted in My first year as a Food Studies student on November 21st, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

Chatham has opened my mind up to numerous areas of work involved in the food system. I came into the program with the mindset of a nutritionist, with science and data. I have learned in my first semester that there are so many other factors that not only make up a healthy diet, but also a healthy food system. What I love about Chatham is the diversity of interests and experiences that every student brings to the classroom. We learn so much from each other. I came to Chatham because I wanted a way to connect nutritional sciences and sustainable agriculture and learn how these two can work together to change the way we eat. It was rare in my undergraduate classes to ever discuss growing food and where we get our food – it was always just about vitamins and minerals. The connection between nutrition was just not clear enough at such a large school and between so many departments and colleges. The master of food studies program will hopefully allow me to expand my knowledge of nutrition and agriculture in way to lead to a fulfilling career. I grew up in State College, Pennsylvania, right in the middle of the state, surrounded by farmlands and Penn State University. I went to Penn State, along with everyone in my family and almost all my friends, and moving to Pittsburgh this past August became the first time I’ve live anywhere outside the borough of State College. Outside of school, I love to bake and experiment with cooking. I also love to dance and teach dance. I wanted to be a Rockette when I was younger but then found out I’m too short. So I guess I can settle for changing the food system.

Chelsea Holmes, MAFS ’13

Posted in Food, My first year as a Food Studies student on October 19th, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

I decided to attend Chatham’s Food Studies graduate program in order to follow my passion–food. My experience at Chatham thus far has been great. I enjoy my classes and it is great to actually be studying something that I love.

I selected Food Studies in order to help bring positive changes to the food system. My interests lie in extending the availability and emphasizing the benefits of healthy/local/organic food to all populations, including low-income schools and families who may not have the same access to healthy food options as others. Living abroad in the recent past has not only given me the opportunity to examine the United State’s food culture from an outsider’s perspective, but has also provided me with an example of an alternative way to look at the food industry. I chose the Food Studies program in order to learn more about the current food system and how I can help bring about change.

I am from Belle Vernon, PA and I attended the University of Pittsburgh for my undergraduate degree. After graduating in Developmental Psychology, I taught at the Cyert Center for Early Childhood Education at Carnegie Mellon University for one year. I then moved to Prague, Czech Republic and taught English for one year. I came back to the U.S. in July, 2011 and began graduate school Chatham University in August.

2011 North East Food and Justice Summit, Boston MA – by Nicole

Posted in My first year as a Food Studies student on September 2nd, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

I’m going to take you back a little bit, way back to February of this year. In February 2011, two other Chatham MAFS students (Teresa Yoder and Shelly Danko+Day) and I travelled to Boston, Massachusetts to attend and present a workshop at the Northeast Food and Justice Summit. The summit was a youth-organized event focused on food access and community justice.

The event was high-energy and inspiring, as high school and college student leaders from states up and down the east coast, but also as far west as Chicago, came together to celebrate their successes and share ideas and stories of their efforts to change the food system in their own communities. It was impressive to see the talent and drive of these young people, not least because of the 600 attendees, probably not more than 30 were over 30!

The first night of the conference, the organizers of the event, the Real Food Challenge, put on an opening session of speeches, games, music, and poetry that helped us meet others at the conference and identify why we were all there. The next day, we attended workshops, including International Resistance: Food Sovereignty, which addressed the international Via Campesina movement for peasant justice worldwide, and Healthy Corner Store Makeovers, in which the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island presented their strategies for making over the bodegas in their neighborhood.

Later at the summit, we presented a collaborative workshop with four students from Boston University’s Gastronomy program, Annaliese DeNooyer, Avi Schlosburg, Erin Ross, and Mayling Chung. Our workshop was called Re-defining the Food Studies Vocabulary, and dealt with “buzzwords” related to the food system that we often hear and use.

During our workshop, we engaged with about 25 participants about how we use words like ‘sustainability,’ ‘access,’ and ‘real food.’ We split into small groups, each group dealing with one of the food studies ‘buzzwords.’ Each group had a marker and a large sheet of paper, and was able to jot down ideas, draw pictures, propose definitions, and/or outline problems associated with their word.

My group’s word was ‘sustainable.’ We talked about how corporations and other interests have co-opted the word, so that it doesn’t mean much anymore. Having some urban farmers in the group, we talked about how difficult it is to farm sustainably, convince people that sustainability is important, or even to know what sustainable means in that setting. We also discussed the challenges of sustaining community food access projects, and the difficulty of attaining economic sustainability for farmers and other food workers. We decided that economic sustainability was one area that is often overlooked when people toss out ideas about sustainable food.

During our time in Massachusetts, we stayed with Erin Ross of BU, who showed us a great time. Boston has an eclectic food scene, which is more varied, although also a bit more expensive, than in Pittsburgh. However, it was worth it, as we went on a cultural eating tour of Boston, chowing down on Ethiopian, Louisiana Creole/Tex-Mex, and Chinese Hot Pot, in the Cambridge, Harvard Square, MIT, and downtown neighborhoods.

Teresa in Boston, 2011

On Saturday night, we were invited to a potluck at Rachel Black’s house on the South Side of Boston. Rachel, a professor at BU, treated us to wine and dinner as we cooked pizzas with students in the Gastronomy program. It was a fun night, and exciting to meet some of our food studies colleagues (and idols!). The whole experience made me realize that our Chatham Food Studies community has many allies, young and old, celebrating food and justice in our communities, in Boston and in cities around the country!

Nicole helping day campers plant seeds.

How to Communicate “Food” – by Arielle

Posted in Uncategorized on July 18th, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

The interdisciplinary nature of Food Studies allows an individual to realize the sometimes not-so-obvious connections of food  to social, environmental, and economic-based situations in today’s world.  As a Food Studies graduate student, I am interested in realizing these connections and presenting them in clear, relatable ways to general audiences.  Issues surrounding food access and security, sustainable agricultural practices, and environmental degradation are discussed regularly in the program and students are leading conversations to improve the state of these issues in Pittsburgh and beyond.

With a background in Communications and Environmental Science, I see significant  correlations between U.S. agribusiness and climate change.   Unpredictable weather patterns and growing seasons leave farmers unable to ensure crop success and a living wage for their families each season.  Large-scale industrial agriculture companies then have the opportunity to manipulate the price structure of produce, often leaving the small and mid-scale farmers in the dust.  Though there is a growing interest in community-based agriculture programs, such as CSAs and farmers’ markets, the promise of economic success for local farmers is still not guaranteed from season to season, especially as most government subsidies are only available to large-scale producers.

Looking toward the future, there are many opportunities to improve food and agricultural policies at the state and federal levels.  Decision-makers must fairly consider the social, environmental, and economic consequences of the current state of industrial agriculture.  Though agribusiness will continue to play a role in the U.S. food system, more emphasis on regional food production and distribution must be implemented and supported.  This concept will play out differently in each area of the country as growing methods and seasons vary, however the opportunity is still there.

Framing and discussing these ideas in a variety of contexts and encouraging consumer support through marketing strategies and policies are just a few ways that a Food Studies degree is critical to a sustainable future.

Urban Agriculture = healthy options for Cassandra (Part of a series about MAFS students’ summer internships)

Posted in Food, MAFS Summer Internships on July 18th, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

As a graduate student within the Food Studies program at Chatham University, I am cognizant of the importance that food plays in personal and community development. In an era characterized by globalization and industrialization, consumers are becoming increasingly distanced from their food supply. However, food and agriculture have become vehicles of reform through which educators, policy-makers, and conscious consumers alike can work toward a more holistic and interconnected food system.

I believe that urban agriculture can provide an opportunity for city dwellers to connect to the land and to their food supply. Urban agriculture can also provide a means of food self-sufficiency for those who may lack access to sources of fresh, healthy food. This summer I am working at Grow Pittsburgh’s Braddock Farm as an AmeriCorps member. The location of Braddock Farms, on post-industrial land, is giving me necessary hands-on experience with urban agriculture that I will need to be successful upon graduation. So far this summer, I have prepared beds for planting by weeding, mulching, and applying compost, direct seeded and transplanted crops into raised beds, applied necessary organic pest and disease controls,  harvested and processed mature vegetables, constructed row covers, and built brick walk-ways in the high-tunnels. Weather rain or shine, there is always work to do at the farm!

Throughout the summer, the Braddock Farm Stand will give me the opportunity to connect with the local Braddock community. A key element of urban agriculture is community engagement. Urban gardens can serve local communities by providing fresh produce where it may otherwise be absent and by contributing to relationship development by encouraging community involvement. Braddock Farms also fosters community engagement through the Summer Youth Intern Program. By involving the Braddock youth in the gardening experience, Grow Pittsburgh is helping to cultivate relationships between adolescents and the land that may translate into lifelong habits and interests. By working at Braddock Farms this summer, I hope to not only gain valuable urban agricultural experience, but also to more fully appreciate the sense of community that can develop out of urban food production.

Chatham University’s Eden Hall Blend, was just named the “Best student-brewed cup of Joe” for 2011 by Pittsburgh Magazine!

Posted in Eden Hall Coffee on July 6th, 2011 by ffisher – 1 Comment

Did we tell you it tastes good too?

It’s true!!  Pittsburgh Magazine thought it was “…a winner by any standard.” Well, now you can order our specially blended Eden Hall Coffee from the official Food Studies CSA. Some of you have been lucky enough to taste this dark, velvety elixir named after what will become the first sustainability campus built from the ground up. This Fair Trade, certified Organic blend was created for us by local coffee roasters La Prima Espresso. The blend is 50% Mexican, 25% Yirgacheffe and 25% Sidamo, which creates a wonderful milk chocolate and fruity aroma with a light body. Best of all, proceeds from our coffee sales go to the Food Studies Scholarship Fund. So whether you’re starting your day off with this marvelous brew or relaxing after a satisfying day at work, you’ll be helping further student education and the environment!

We’ll be distributing our whole bean coffee alongside Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance’s CSA pick-up location at Chatham University’s Shadyside Campus.

Orders must be in by the first Wednesday of the month (as this is the first online ordering month, we’ve extended the deadline to July 11!).

Pick up will be on the last Wednesday of the month on Chatham Campus outside the Anderson Dining Hall loading dock from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. (July 27, August 31, September 28 and October 26, etc.).

The more you buy, the more you save. Tell all your friends!  Order here TODAY!

On Food Studies, Being Nervous, and a Conference.

Posted in Food on June 28th, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

Earlier this month, myself and a handful of my cohort members traveled to Missoula, Montana to attend the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) conference entitled “Food and Agriculture Under the Big Sky: People, Partnerships, Policies” at the University of Montana. It was four days of panel discussions and presentations, many from people whom we have read in class. We had been to conferences before, but this was the first time we were each presenting. Needless to say we were all a little nervous.

A number of us kicked off our stay in Montana with a little time outdoors. We went on a led hike through Rattlesnake Recreation Area and Wilderness. It was drizzly but we were able to breathe the fresh air, see some native plant species, and hear the roar of the river as it rushed through the mountain. We learned that the wildnerness area had been farmland many, many years ago and was now being reserved. People strolled past us with their dogs as we made our way down the trail. It was great to get out and stretch our legs after long plane trips, and for four of my classmates, a roadtrip from Pittsburgh to Missoula!  A few other classmates took a tour of some interesting food and agriculture projects in the Missoula area. In addition to the local food bank and others, they visited the PEAS Farm, a collaboration of the university’s Environmental Studies program and Garden City Harvest.

Once the conference really kicked off, my cohort and I went in all directions. There are four or five presentations going on simultaneously at any given time so there were plenty of topics to choose from. I went to a really exciting panel featuring Jack Kloppenburg where the presenters discussed strategies for seed security. There were presentations on teaching methods in food, innovations in urban agriculture, and tons of other topics in food and agriculture.

AND THE FOOD! They fed us well at this conference. Our snacks were tasty things like local pears, local radishes with butter and an assortment of salt, things like that. Not your typical coffee and doughnuts. Our lunches were delicious; local breads, succotash with cranberries and walnuts, beluga lentils, veggie quiche…I’ll stop there. This was a food conference after all and the chef and his team definitely brought their A-game when it was feeding time. It’s really difficult to produce a large amount of food at one time for lots of people so this was no small feat.

That Friday night, we were able to show off a bit. Each food program (includes Chatham, NYU, BU, and Indiana’s Ph.D. program) had to bring something that represented our location and our program. I may be biased, but we had quite the interesting display. We brought bottles and bottles of Boyd & Blair vodka (a local Pittsburgh potato vodka) infused with rhubarb from our classmate Catherine’s own garden! Barb, another classmate and talented chef, made a strawberry simple syrup and little cookies to serve with the vodka. All of these tasty elements together created a Strawberry Rhubard Pie Martini. Needless to say, we felt pretty popular for those couple of hours.

We had been anticipating our first conference presentations for about six months. That’s a lot of build up and it really did a number on my nerves. I was nervous about sounding knowledgeable about my paper topic and conveying the scope of my experience. I was nervous about sneezing in the middle of my talk or breathing or blinking. I woke up the morning of my panel anticipating a whole day of feeling anxious. That was only partly true. Halfway through the day I realized that no one was attending the conference in order to tear other people down. Everyone was coming to Missoula to learn and to tell others what they know. It was as simple as that and all I had to do was present and answer their questions the best I could. My panel began and I, as the first speaker, started things off. Even with Jan Poppendieck and Warren Belasco (two authors we’ve read and that I really admire) among the audience, I felt good. I felt like an authority. I felt worthy of being listened to and of being in front of these people. I also had some of my cohort in the audience and their support was really amazing. Six months of build up was over and done with in about fifteen minutes. I was more than prepared and the audience nodded and complemented my presentation. Maybe this is a food nerd thing, but presenting was a little bit thrilling. I’m glad that I put myself up to the challenge. That’s what this program has been for me in totality thus far; making myself step out of my comfort zone and proving that I can do things that scare me and come out just fine.

More photos…

Re-Post from Chatham University’s Graduate Student Blog.  Amanda West, Graduate Admissions Ambassador and Food Studies student.

Sustainability is Smart for Johanna (Part of a series about MAFS students’ summer internships)

Posted in MAFS Summer Internships on June 16th, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

Sustainability is good.  This statement, for many, is not difficult to recognize.  But that sustainability is also clever is a more subtle attribute.  In sustainable agriculture it is clever to use cover crops to help control soil erosion while at the same time balancing nutrients in that soil.  It is clever to plant flowers that attract insects that aid in protecting the crops from less desirable insects.  And it is clever to reuse rescued materials, whenever possible.  For many new and generational farmers, it is also a much needed budget saver.

At One Woman Farm in Gibsonia, PA, Margaret Schlass is teaching me sustainable farming.  Margaret loves new gadgets and power tools; anything that makes her life make more sense gives her more ease with which to do her work.  Margaret also appreciates recycling “waste” to make her farm operate better.  Her chicken coop’s walls are made from old siding from a house, her greens processing station is made up of two old bathtubs, and her “new” and much adored root vegetable processing station is a transformed barrel.

At the beginning of this internship, I went with Margaret to the home of an incredibly nice couple in Wexford, PA.  Margaret had just bought their old aboveground pool.  Our job that day was to take it apart and haul it away.  This pool would eventually become part of Margaret’s new irrigation system.  We spent a few hours with this couple, taking down the pool, chatting about their kids using the pool when they were young and still lived at home, and chatting more generally about the place they lived.  When they had first moved in, there were still farmers surrounding them, now a highway and increased housing developments.

Often, the cleverness of sustainability is inherent.  That day Margaret and I obtained a pool for reuse at the farm, but we also introduced ourselves to people in the community who had felt a tie to agriculture as a familiar backdrop to their lives and missed the connection.  The experience was a pleasant and important reminder that sustainability truly is social as well as environmental and economical.

Learning to be Rooted in the Land Inspires Teresa

Posted in Food, My first year as a Food Studies student on June 8th, 2011 by ffisher – Be the first to comment

During a recent Food Studies retreat our director, Dr. Alice Julier, asked us to think about our most favorite reading from our first year as Food Studies students. As I pondered her request, I thought about the numerous books we read for courses like Food Access, Food Systems, and Food, Culture, and History. Although I enjoyed many of these books, there is one reading that was so powerful to me I can remember exactly where I was when I read it. On a cool, crisp Saturday morning last fall, I had walked to the East End Food Co-op to enjoy a cup of coffee and go through the assigned readings for my Growing Sustainably class. One of the readings was an excerpt from Lisa Hamilton’s work Deeply Rooted (2009). In the selected chapters, Hamilton introduces the reader to the Podolls, a family of organic farmers from North Dakota. Throughout Hamilton’s discussions with the Podolls, the reader begins to recognize that for this farming family, the act of growing food for themselves, their families, and for others was about much more than just survival, but rather it was a deeply spiritual act.

Connection to the land and to the food they grow is a central theme that emerges as Hamilton talks with the family. David Podoll tells Hamilton that although people know right from wrong, they simply choose to accept the ways things are.  But he cannot. He explains, “I’ve got to stop and think about them. And when I do, I realize how much in our society is just based entirely on a money economy, with no thought for a moral or ethical response to what we’re doing” (p. 231). For David, participating in this alternative system of agriculture is not only countercultural but also ethical. It is something he and his family must do. How different would our food system look if we upheld such values of trust, goodness, stewardship, and beauty? When one is deeply, personally, and spiritually connected to the land, how could one destroy it? And so it was on that Saturday morning while reading Deeply Rooted in the café of the East End Food Co-op when I realized I needed to save my family’s farm. I knew then that this was something I must do.