Food Justice at Andover: Lunch and Discussion Starts a Series of Events Aimed to Bring Awareness to Food Accessibility

While Andover students have access to food and various forms of nutrition at Paresky Commons, food accessibility can be a hurdle in other parts of the world.

Faculty members and students gathered in the Mural Room on Wednesday for a lunch organized by the Tang Institute to discuss food justice — the concept of equitable and affordable access to food.

The discussion focused on three main areas at Andover in which food justice is taught and practiced: current academic courses that explore the concept, environmental initiatives led by student organizations like EcoAction, and current endeavors by Paresky.

According to Flavia Vidal, Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies and one of the primary organizers of this event, the food justice lunch marked the beginning of a series of events revolving around food justice at Andover.

“The food justice lunch that the Tang Institute is hosting is actually part of the larger what we’re calling the Food Justice Series this year… The series is being envisioned as a big collaboration partnership among many, many different departments and offices and individuals across campus, also with a lot of help with our alumni community,” said Vidal.

During the discussion, Brendan Mackinson, Instructor in Chemistry and the course “Environmental Science: Food, Agriculture, and the Future,” mentioned how his students are looking at food justice from an environmental and economical perspective.

“I hope it’s a class that really challenges students to think about their relationship to food and through that, their relationship to the environment, to each other, to communities, and to cultures,” said Mackinson.

While this elective provides students with an opportunity to look at the issue of food justice, Mackinson said that more courses should incorporate similar ideas and discussions to explore the multidisciplinary nature of food justice.

“I don’t know if we do as good of a job as we could of touching on that on other areas of our curriculum so students can really see how integrated this thing is and that it’s a part of history and social science and natural sciences and philosophy and religion,” said Mackinson.

Rajesh Mundra, Associate Dean of Students and Residential Life and Instructor in Biology, also mentioned the integration of education on nutrition into the Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion (EBI) curriculum, which particularly interested attendee Allison Zhu ’19.

“Mr. Mundra mentioned how nutrition is a part of the [Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion (EBI)] program, and oftentimes, I don’t think we think that eating is something that we have to learn. It’s almost a mechanical thing. Still, you grow up, and you need to sustain yourself. But then there are also ways that you can eat more healthily, especially on campus,” said Zhu.

David Florencio, Junior Sous Chef at Paresky, acknowledged the school’s current efforts in providing a diverse array of fresh food options for students and its endeavors in sourcing from local farms and agricultural communities.

“We have many things that we do really well: the sources that we get the food, the amount of food that we don’t waste, and that we’re trying to save as much food as possible,” said Florencio.

According to Florencio, the Paresky team references the amount of food produced and wasted from the previous day to better inform them about how much food they should produce the next day.

“It tells us the amount of food, with the past food cycle that we went through, how much food we’re going to create for the next food cycle,” continued Florencio.

Florencio also mentioned Paresky’s current, improved initiatives on giving food options for everyone in the community, whether it be with diverse menus or with alternative options for people with vegan or vegetarian diets.

“Our menu cycles are different every single week, so we try to incorporate food from Asia, from Latin America, from Europe, [and] from the United States, so that we can please everybody. We [also try to] please the people who are vegan, vegetarian,” said Florencio.

Allison Guerette, the Campus Sustainability Coordinator and faculty advisor for student organization EcoAction, says she is glad that there are more campus initiatives for bringing awareness to environmental issues with the food justice series.

“We do a great job engaging the [Andover] community on issues of race, class, and gender, and now we have an opportunity to turn that lens on food justice and other issues related to the environment,” wrote Guerette in an email to The Phillipian.

Guerette continued, “Food justice and environmental sustainability are very much connected. Making locally-grown, organic food accessible to all communities, in particular communities experiencing food insecurity, helps people as well as the environment.”

According to Vidal, the topic of food justice will require the effort of the community and the collaboration of many different departments, school organizations, and students to truly unpack the problems surrounding the equity and accessibility of food.

“There are a lot of different people who are involved in these academic departments, community engagement, the Peabody [Institute of Archaeology], the Tang Institute, Brace, CAMD [Community and Multicultural Development Office], the [Andover] Archives if we want to think a little bit historically about how food justice has played out, Biology and Chemistry teachers. It’s really a multi-level, big community undertaking that we’re really excited about,” said Vidal.

Editor’s Note: Kaitlin Lim is an Associate Arts Editor for The Phillipian. Allison Zhu is a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.