Taking the Challenge for Real Food: Student Engagement in Procuring Sustainably Produced Food on Campus
Keywords:Community-Based Research, Local Food Systems, Sustainability, Student Engagement, Transnational Corporations, Farmers Markets, Social Change
AbstractIn the fall of 2011, a graduate seminar in applied environmental sociology at a southern university in the U.S. took on a project to help an undergraduate student environmental organization obtain local and sustainably produced food for the university cafeteria. The aim was for our seminar to use community-based research (CBR) to help Reconnect, the student club, drive social change. An important objective was for the seminar students to apply their academic skills to helping the student club while acquiring the new skills developed through engaging in social change. In this reflective essay, we share our experience as a team of practitioners utilizing a community-based research approach in working with an undergraduate student group to launch a campaign to get local and sustainably produced food into the university cafeteria. During the project, we encountered many challenges yet had many accomplishments. For instance, there was resistance from the university’s corporate food vendor, which ultimately prevented Reconnect from realizing local and sustainable food in the university cafeteria. However, we helped Reconnect build capacity for the initiative and catalyzed other institutional successes including laying the groundwork for a permanent farmers market on campus.
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