Food for Change

Access to healthy, nutritious food is a basic human right, and Dave Emond ’96 and Kelly Verel ’97 both work to ensure that this right extends to all populations.

By Dave Greenslit

Food justice was most definitely not on Dave Emond’s radar when he studied English at Holy Cross in the 1990s.

He jokes that his main interest in food at the time was how much of it he could eat.

When Kelly Verel arrived on campus about the same time, she had developed a passion for food—reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows and cooking at home—but was skeptical about turning that interest into a career. Friends suggested she become a chef, but she feared spending 16 hours a day in the kitchen, “getting yelled at,” would ruin her favorite pastime.
Now food, and food justice, are central to Emond’s and Verel’s professional lives as they work in very different ways but with the same goal of helping underserved populations gain access to healthy, affordable food.

Emond ’96 is executive director of Liberty’s Kitchen, a nonprofit organization in New Orleans that teaches at-risk young people work skills through food service, and also provides nutritious meals to students in some of the city’s public charter schools.

Verel ’97 is vice president of Project for Public Spaces in New York, which helps establish or revitalize public and farmers markets in the United States and Canada; these markets benefit local food systems, improve access for low-income people and provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

Such efforts have grown over the past 10 to 15 years, and Stephanie Crist, a visiting assistant professor of sociology who has taught three food-related courses at Holy Cross, finds that encouraging.

“To me, food justice is more than the ability of a person to go to a local food pantry and pick up a bag that contains three days worth of food. Today, those bags and services are incredibly important, but not just,” she says. “A just food system would enable people of all economic backgrounds the right and access to healthy foods that are culturally desirable. Food justice approaches recognize the interconnections of food with struggles for economic, gender and racial justice. They also tend to favor both structural change and community-driven responses.”