As promised in my last post, the time has arrived for the Food Studies Project to fly. Our destination is to lay the foundations of a Food Studies Institute. In order to get started, we took a leap. It was scary, at first, because gravity is always trying to pull us back to the ground. But falling is part of learning how to fly. We, at the Food Studies Project, believe that we can defy gravity with supporting winds, leading us to great heights.
Since launching the Food Studies Project (FSP) in September 2011, our UT Community has really become excited to see where this project will go. The FSP’s interdisciplinary approach to the study of food has been well received by students both from the sciences and the arts. Most have agreed that the complexity of food in modern day society warrants a multidisciplinary program that balances the interests and concerns about food.
Orientating ours minds to make our program fly requires focus not only on the technical side (administration, venture capital, faculty), but on the beauty of our project as well. A Food Studies program should focus on the behavioral and social sciences that will compliment a variety of academic fields. In other Food Studies programs across the nation, there seems to be a division between a foodie and foodist. I believe that UT should bring a variety of disciplines to the table for students to get a taste of all the aspects and understandings of food. Let’s mix both love for food and the concerns that accompany it into a program that will discuss and create new ideas. Hopefully, with the right balance, we will find our wings.
Our concept encourages a broad discussion of food related issues with the intent of fostering social innovation for tomorrow’s foodways. There are so many different schools of thought on food; educating the mind about food cannot and will not be linear. We will create a food program in which all ideas are challenged and considered.
So, who can fly? I’ve always imagined a McCombs student with an entrepreneurial spirit benefiting from the interdisciplinary study of food. For example, this student might be researching and creating a business plan for HEB. This student wants to see how the company can address food deserts by creating satellite mini-stores. With a background in Food Studies, they can learn about the health, cultural, political, economical, technological, and environmental issues related to food for the modern eater. Taking these different aspects into consideration will allow students to apply their studies to the world and give them the boost they need to fly. Of course, it’s not just business students that can benefit from the Food Studies Project. All majors have something to offer and gain from the study of food. I just enjoy learning about all these new mini stores poppin’ up.
FSP has been compared with other “food systems” programs in other parts of the world. In particular, the ideas of “social innovation” promoted by Rachel Greenberger’s, Food Sol are comparable. The UT faculty panel coming together for this project might consider using this as a model for our own initiatives. Amongst the flock of food studies programs, what is unique about our project at UT Austin is that it was student initiated. It was the students that saw the opportunity. Our project was not started by a famous scholar or popular author such as Michael Pollan. It was initiated by students that believe in food, education, and the potential for innovation. Our desire to study food, as students, will drive this project forward. Our blog and our discussion are outlets to explore food interests and share ideas.
We shouldn’t be afraid to fly without all the answers. It is not our responsibility as students to know everything. That’s why we are in school — to learn, to care, and to apply our studies. It is our task to ask questions, start discussions, connect experiences, and raise awareness about the education we want. There are already many students studying food in college. Our project will support these students and enable them to collaborate, discuss food issues, and further their research in order to become the leaders of tomorrow’s foodways and the “benefit of society” our school stands for.
I believe in Food, I believe in Education, I believe in Student Innovation.
Student innovation is the force that will launch our project to great heights; with the right balance of motivated student leaders and the support of our community, we will learn how to fly and lead UT to a brighter, more food savvy future.