Second Helpings

In the Fall 2016 issue of HCM, we explored all things food, both on campus and among the alumni community. Months later, the conversation about food continues here on Mount St. James:

Ethics of Food Series
The Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture is hosting a series on the Ethics of Food, beginning with two discussions on the local food and farming movement on Feb. 2-3, 2016.

Margaret Gray, author of Labor and the Locovore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic, will be coming to campus for a discussion, titled “Forgotten by the Food Movement?”, about the impact of the local food movement on farm workers. Gray’s research and her book assert that the local food movement distracts from the real plight of farm workers, and that they are not any better off compared to mass food growth systems.

In addition, members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-based human rights organization, will be on campus for a lunch discussion about their efforts to protect farmworker rights through their Fair Food Program.

Meatless Mondays
Pope Francis raised some important ethical, philosophical, environmental and moral considerations in his most recent encyclical, Laudato Si. These questions have lead to wider discussion on our campus about considering our individual and collective relationship to the earth, the environment, the world’s poor and animals. On Meatless Mondays, we host a fishbowl discussion, which involves chairs set up in concentric circles. It is a way for our community to gather, listen to different (and even opposing) viewpoints and engage in discernment on this important issue.

—Amit Taneja, associate dean for diversity and inclusion/chief diversity officer

In the Oven: More Food Studies Courses and a “Learning Kitchen”

During the Spring 2016 semester, a group of professors from different disciplines brought their seemingly distinct classes together to discuss food.

They had received a grant to do collaborative, cross-disciplinary work during the semester and had noticed—in true liberal arts fashion—how each of their courses touched on this common topic through a slightly different lens:

Andrea Borghini, of philosophy, was teaching a course called I Am, Therefore I Eat in the Montserrat program.

Stephanie Crist, of sociology, was teaching Food, Poverty and Justice.

Kelly Wolfe-Bellin, of biology, was teaching Biological Principles: Plants and Human Affairs.

Daina Harvey, of sociology, was teaching Environmental Sociology.

Michelle Sterk-Barrett, director of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, wrote the grant and coordinated all of the activities for the classes.

“We find often that our students take these courses as one-offs and don’t always realize that they are connected in many ways,” says Daina Harvey, assistant professor of sociology. So they set out to change that, hosting their classes at a screening and panel discussion of a film about food waste and, at the end of the semester, a slow food dinner.

“We shared a number of students across the courses, and at that particular event [the dinner], they could see how the sociological perspective of food and inequality matched up with philosophical and ethical perspectives, as well as the scientific approach of where food comes from and where food waste goes,” Harvey says.

Inspired by this successful initial collaboration, Harvey worked with the Center for Liberal Arts in the World on a “food studies brainstorm” session. The session, which took place during the Fall 2016 semester, brought faculty together to explore how they can work together to encourage food studies and research on campus.

“We realized we were all doing similar teaching and research on food, and should try to pursue it in some way, maybe a concentration or a minor,” Harvey says. While an official food studies program could be further down the road, the brainstorm has already led to plans for a “learning kitchen” on campus, and a new course taught by Harvey.

The learning kitchen will be a space in Kimball for professors and students, across disciplines, to use in their study of food. Harvey imagines biology classes using it to study yeast formations, cell growth or hops, or Borghini’s philosophy of food classes hosting meals and exploring the history of recipes. Harvey plans to use the space to brew beer as part of his new course, called Food, Beer and the Environment.

Harvey studies the environment and culture and, for the past two years, has been researching the craft beer industry in New England alongside colleague Ellis Jones, assistant professor of sociology. The course, which will be offered in the summer of 2017 or the spring of 2018, will cover “the brewing industry in New England, looking at the hops farmers and brewers themselves, as well as race, class, inequality and sustainability issues, and how climate change is affecting production here,” Harvey says. Students who take the course during a summer session will have the opportunity to assist Harvey and Jones when they interview the hops farmers and brewers.

Harvey is already working with Holy Cross Dining on plans for the kitchen, and has been thrilled at the positive response. “There are still logistics to figure out, but everyone has been super supportive,” he says.

Once the kitchen is up and running, we’ll capture our students and faculty in action and share the images in a future issue of HCM.  ■

—Maura Sullivan Hill