Earlier this year I was contacted by Dr. Tracy Slagter, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Slagter told me she was starting a brand new course on food politics — and my blog was going to be part of her students’ required reading. (!) I asked Slagter to stay in touch and let me know how her new course was received.
A few days ago I received this lovely email. I found it so inspiring and hopeful that I asked for Slagter’s permission to share it with you.
What would our food system and society look like if all high school or college students received this sort of education?
Happy summer! I’ve been meaning to email you for several weeks since the semester ended, but am only getting to it now. I originally emailed you in February to tell you how much your blog inspired my teaching at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and now that the course is over I wanted to share a few things with you that might interest you from my “Politics of Food” class.
First, the course was better than I could have imagined. College students can be a bit tricky to motivate on issues that they don’t feel are directly related to their lives, but after a few weeks of going through the political influence of the food industry and making them write about the lobbying money behind their favorite snacks, I think they understood where the class was headed and how it impacted them. Since they didn’t know a lot about politics going in, I think the course took them by surprise: they didn’t realize that politics and food were so connected. It was fun to see the lightbulbs go on!
Second, as part of the course students were required to spend time working with local schools and child care centers or at our local community pantry. About half of my 45 students worked in the pantry, which was quite an education about SNAP, food waste, childhood hunger, and poverty. The other half worked on helping local schools and child care centers educate young children about the importance of healthy choices, and they had lots of fun creating healthy snacks with preschool children. A handful of students also worked to put on a new event for our community, the “Cookin’ It Fresh” school lunch challenge. Some of my students worked with high school teams and local chefs to create healthy and delicious items that met the NSLP requirements and could be produced for under $1.00/meal. They discovered how difficult a task it was working in a school kitchen on such a tight budget, trying to cater to a wide variety of tastes. (The healthy walking taco was the winner! Bed of tortilla chips, black beans, brown rice, lots of spices, shredded chicken, and shredded carrots in place of cheese. It was really good!)
Finally, the last project for the course asked students to think about the long-term sustainability of the U.S. food system. The course had a focus on sustainability — it was the concept that anchored the course, and sustainability is part of our general education program here (the University Studies Program). The last part of the project asked students to reflect on their experiences in course and with their community partners. Here’s a link to one of my favorites. (This was shared with the student’s permission.) This student and I are going to undertake a collaborative research project this fall related to food politics, but we’re not sure of our exact focus yet. (Any suggestions?!)
Anyway, I thought you would enjoy hearing about these things. I am still a devoted reader of your blog and learn so much from it! Again, thank you for the excellent work that you do, and for your passion in doing it.
Associate Professor, Political Science
Interim Director, University Studies Program
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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